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Autism

Blog posts with a category of Autism.

Mass murderer Adam Lanza’s father breaks his silence

IMG_0264By David Harris, MD and New Oakland medical director

Some mysteries forever remain unsolved. As of March 21st, when this is being written, the mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 becomes more puzzling by the day. Despite dozens of theories we may never know what caused the plane to disappear. Also, after reading a lengthy article in the New Yorker magazine featuring Peter Lanza, the father of mass murderer Adam Lanza, we are still no closer to understanding what motivated the murder of 26 teachers and students at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.

We at New Oakland know the vital importance of making an accurate diagnosis and how problematic that can be. Adam Lanza is a perfect example. lanza 3After a relatively normal elementary school experience both at home and at school, Lanza morphed into becoming a deeply troubled adolescent. He began suffering from sensory overload. His mother even had to Xerox his text books to black and white because the color graphics were unbearable. He quit playing the saxophone and stopped climbing trees. Changing classes each hour caused intense stress. He had panic attacks; had trouble sleeping; stopped making eye contact and withdrew socially.

His brain didn’t necessarily change, but as mass murder psychiatrist Michael Stone told the New Yorker, “Life challenges nudged him in the direction of being sicker.” When he was 13, psychiatrist Paul Fox gave him a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, considered to be a mild form of autism.

Adam was actually quite brilliant and Peter, wife Nancy and older brother Ryan were completely devoted to his well-being. Peter and Nancy divorced but cooperated fully with the children.  At Paul Fox’s recommendation, Nancy began home-schooling Adam in the 8th grade and did so through high school.

The problem was that the Asperger’s diagnosis was incomplete, and served to set the family on a tragic course. Satisfied with the diagnosis, the Lanza’s may have been distracted from the many signals they apparently missed. And Peter notes that despite repeated visits to mental health professionals, no one saw anything that would predict Adam’s future behavior.

Both autism and psychopathy like schizophrenia entail a lack of empathy. With autism, it’s difficulty understanding emotions and an inability to interpret other people’s nonverbal signs. With psychopathy, it’s a lack of concern about hurting other people and an inability to share their feelings. Continue reading

Explaining autism “1 in 50”

By Jeffrey Sendi, DO, New Oakland Medical Director

With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention data now reporting that a stunning 1 in 50 school-age children are being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, it brought to mind that it was this time last summer that New Oakland was helping to fund a documentary on autism.

The documentary titled “The Circle Never Ends,” was produced by Eli Zaret, who is New Oakland’s community liaison, and it aired on WXYZ, Channel 7 in September. New Oakland’s involvement was simply to do our part to bring greater awareness to this often disabling and tragically prevalent developmental disorder.

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disorders characterized by social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is no biological test for autism, nor do researchers know its cause, although a rapidly growing body of scientific research suggests it is a combination of genetic and outside or “environmental” factors.

Although autism diagnoses have climbed from 1 in 150 ten years ago to a mind-boggling 1 in 50 today, New Oakland isn’t so sure it means that there are more cases.

More so, it’s that doctors have gained knowledge and developed more sophisticated surveillance abilities to recognize milder, previously unrecognized forms, and have broadened the so-called Autism Spectrum to reflect them. Continue reading

Channel 7, New Oakland and “The Circle Never Ends”

By Jeffrey Sendi, DO

As the metro area’s most recognized child-adolescent mental health clinic, we at New Oakland are excited to be a part of a Channel 7’s half-hour special on Sunday, September 23rd at 5:30. “The Circle Never Ends” is about an amazing charity that we’ve partnered with called the “Friendship Circle.”

From its modest beginnings in 1994, the Friendship Circle has provided companionship for children with special needs and, just as importantly, respite care to the parents of these children. Thousands of metro area kids, about 70% of them are children on the autism spectrum, have been helped in profound ways.

Autism is a developmental disability or pervasive developmental disorder.  With spectrum disorders, we see a wide range in severity of illness. Sadly, we still don’t have a real handle on what the cause of autism is. There is a lot of research showing that there’s a genetic predisposition. 50 years ago, in our ignorance, it was attributed to poor parenting. Clearly, we’ve learned that that’s not the case. Continue reading