News: autism adult

Pediatrician with Autism Uses Her 'Aspie' Skills to Better Care for Kids

By Gen Cohen

Doctor says her autism helps her understand her special patients in a way that no other pediatrician can.

By Rochelle Flynn, MD, FAAP via parenting.com

 

If you have a child with autism, you have probably read everything about the disorder—from articles written by other parents raising a child with autism to psychologists giving their professional opinions to people who have the disorder sharing their own experiences. And you have likely taken your child to the pediatrician for advice about childhood illnesses and parenting suggestions for your special child. In your mind, you try to coalesce all of the information from so many diverse sources as you try to figure out how to help your child to reach his or her full potential.

But what would you think if you took your child to the pediatrician and instead of the same routine advice, she is able to explain things to you that your child is likely experiencing, but may not be able to communicate? You're probably thinking, "Great, I found a pediatrician who has an autistic child, too." Nope—actually the pediatrician has autism spectrum disorder! Say what?!

The story of my diagnosis begins almost three years ago, when I was officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome on May 15, 2013 (later revised to "Autism Spectrum Disorder-Mild"). At the age of 42, I finally had an explanation for the decades of struggling to fit in and for the severe anxiety associated with struggling to survive in my career.

When I was a child, autism referred to the more severely affected, nonverbal children. That certainly didn't apply to me. After my diagnosis, I started reevaluating my entire life through the eyes of autism. So much now is starting to make sense. In second grade, I begged another girl to be my friend. In high school, I made a joking comment to someone and my classmates got really upset. I felt the tight grip of pressure in my chest from everyone's reaction, but I didn't understand what I had said wrong.

All my life, my "obsession" was becoming a doctor. There was a path to follow and getting into medical school was the final step to this dream coming true. The very first day stands out in my mind as the day when one of the deans approached me "out of concern" because she noticed that I "seemed more anxious than any other student." From that day on, medical school became the start of a career-long roller coaster ride of anxiety, when my personal drive and intelligence smashed full-speed into the brick wall of all of my social skills' deficits. As I fought to survive and achieve my dream, the emotional toll it took on my already-fragile self-esteem left permanent scars that to this day I struggle to overcome.

Graduating medical school should have been the realization of my lifelong dream, but the struggle to fit into a career where so much relies on social skills meant that my journey was just beginning, and every day was a new battle to survive. I started my career in pediatric emergency medicine where every day was different, and I loved the puzzle of piecing together clues and making a diagnosis. However, the high-stress environment, the tragedy of young children dying, and the physically unbearable work schedule all built up over the years. To see colleagues spend their entire careers in one place made me feel like an incredible failure as I floundered around trying to find my career niche.

My practice style focused on providing information to educate parents rather than performing unnecessary tests or giving unnecessary prescriptions. For many parents in the emergency department, however, this was the trigger for complaints because I "didn't fulfill their expectations" (that antibiotic for their child's virus, etc.). Most times, this occurred long after they left the hospital. I never suspected that anything was wrong, only later to be criticized by my supervisors. It did not matter that I did everything medically correct, only that the parent was "not satisfied." And so this pattern continued: well-meaning advice by me would result in complaints by the parent and censure by my supervisors. My brain became so conditioned by this that the grip of panic in my chest became increasingly frequent, triggered even by thinking about work. No wonder so many on the autism spectrum develop PTSD after years of this type of unconsciously triggered anxiety and the emotional scars it leaves behind.

Switching careers to general pediatrics, where I am now, was my attempt to find families who could appreciate my practice style. However, new sources of stress come from the constant daily struggle to navigate the subtleties of office policies and politics that everyone else seems to understand but often make no common sense to me.

As I am beginning to understand myself better after my diagnosis, I am also realizing that there are many great benefits to being a pediatrician with autism. I think that choosing pediatrics as my career was unconsciously due to the realization that children are very accepting. My personality traits that are considered deficits in the adult world of communication are actually strengths when dealing with a scared child. I can allow myself to get very silly with a child to get them giggling and no longer afraid of my exam. The depth of gratitude expressed by many of the parents of these children has been overwhelming and incredibly rewarding.

Another of my "Aspie" skills is being very detail-oriented. Sometimes this focus allows me to pick up a single clue that leads to a diagnosis that otherwise might have been missed. This skill is also the one that causes me the most stress, however, because it means that I am frequently one or two hours behind schedule. The more burdened I become by time-pressure (a notorious detriment to most of us with ASD), the less efficient I become. I suffer daily anxiety struggling to balance family life with the hours of paperwork and indirect patient care tasks that I still have to do during my personal time because I cannot complete them during regular work hours. Physical exhaustion and emotional guilt are my constant companions.

I do not tell most parents that I have ASD. However, when I do share this personal information with parents of children who have ASD, the sense of appreciation and acceptance is slowly beginning to give me confidence in myself as a person and as a pediatrician. I am becoming more hopeful that some of my emotional scars might eventually fade away.

This journey of personal and professional self-discovery is something that, until now, I have kept deep inside myself. However, by taking the risk of putting aside "normal professional boundaries," I hope to foster a better understanding about the struggles that all of us on the spectrum experience to some degree or other. All of my struggles to survive in a career that relies on social skills have led me to the unique position where I am able to understand my special patients in a way that no other pediatrician can. Perhaps in that realization, I have finally discovered my own special career niche.

Rochelle Caruso Flynn, MD, FAAP, started her career as a pediatrician specializing in pediatric emergency medicine, but with her husband's encouragement, Rochelle decided to make a career change to general pediatrics. Then, in May 2013, her world once again turned upside down when she was diagnosed with autism. Rather than providing relief as the explanation for many of her life's challenges, Flynn now finds herself reevaluating her entire life from this new perspective.

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Skip the Gas Station With These Healthy Road Trip Snacks For Kids

By Gen Cohen

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11 Edible Slime Recipes Your Kids Will Want to Make Right This Minute

By Gen Cohen

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6 Best Dog Breeds For Families With Small Kids

By Gen Cohen

It's not unusual for families to adopt a dog around the same time as having their own children. But are some dog breeds better suited for families with small children? We were recently asked that, so we reached out to Dr. Eva Radke, DVM, of the East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic in California to see what we could come up with.

There are various things to consider, according to Radke, aside from a dog just being a family-friendly breed. She recommends taking your own daily life into account. "Are you an active family who spends a lot of time hiking, running, and camping?" she asks. "Or do you tend to stay home cooking and enjoying movies? You will want to choose a dog whose temperament, size, and energy level best matches your family."

At the end of the day, it's also important to remember that your dog is just that: a dog. "Even the gentlest-mannered dog is still an animal with her own set of instincts and ways to express herself," Radke said. She suggests you never leave your small children unattended with the dog, just in case, and always supervise them when they're together. Your pup may always tolerate the ear and tail tugs from your kid, but you don't want to run the risk of the dog snapping one day when you aren't paying attention.

Scroll through to find the six best dog breeds for families with kids, based on each breed's typical personality traits.

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10 Things Autism Parents Wish You Knew

By Gen Cohen

Read the heartfelt article below to get your autism facts straight and to learn 10 things every child with autism (and their parents) wishes you knew.

Originally shared on autism speaks

Kristi Campbell is a semi-lapsed career woman with about 18 years of marketing experience in a variety of national and global technology companies. While she does work part-time, her passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog Finding Ninee, focused on finding humor and support for her special needs son. 

The word autism entered my heart as a whisper. It later entered my brain as a possibility. Later still, it entered my life. I think I knew, long before I knew.

I worried, bought a book on autism, devoured it, and then felt like that must not be what my son has. He was nothing like the boy in the book. Nothing.  ”Maybe,” I thought, “he just has a language delay.”

I waited for him to start speaking more. For him to start playing in the way that he was supposed to play. He did play though, unlike the boy in the book, so certainly, his issues were different. Less “severe?”

Never mind that he had an egg-sized bruise on his forehead for six weeks at the age of 18 months from banging his head on the floor. As quickly as that behavior started, it went away. I stopped worrying about it. I mean, it no longer existed. Sure, he ran laps around the house. But only when he was tired. Don’t all kids do that? Don’t they all twirl their hair, around and around and around, while drinking a bottle? 

I’ve mentioned before that parents and friends assured us that Tucker would catch up, and that his delays were likely due to me being at home with him as a baby.

They were wrong.

I was wrong.

I remember one day, when I looked at my son and with a fearful, time-stopping heart, I wondered whether he was deaf. He wasn’t responding to me that day. Then, I gave him a little at-home test, and he responded. I let myself believe that everything was fine. What did I know? I had no other child in the house to compare him to. He loves to snuggle, and, from what I’d read, autistic children do not. He looks at me in the eyes. Deeply. With meaning and intent. I’d already learned from Dr. Google that children with autism don’t make eye contact…

Here. Four years later. Does Tucker look like anything other than a little boy having fun in the snow?

Autism doesn't look like anything but the way it looks. It doesn't look like Rain Man. It doesn't always include hand-flapping, rocking, or issues with language. Sometimes, it does. But, sometimes, it doesn't.

Last night, I reached out to my IRL PAC tribe.

I asked them what they wish the world knew about autism and special needs and based on their feedback, I compiled this list of 10 things every child with autism (and their parents) wishes you knew:

10 Things Special Needs and Autism Parents Wish You Knew:  

  1. People don’t need to feel awkward when they’re around my son. Yeah, they may need to treat him a little differently, but I wish they wouldn’t be weirded out.
  2. Not all autism is the same.
  3. People seem to think that because my son isn’t like the one single other person they know on the spectrum, that he must not be autistic.
  4. These kids love. They need love. They are wonderful and bring enormous joy and laughter to those who love them.
  5. Knowing one child with autism doesn’t mean anything really – they’re all so different. Please don’t tell me my son doesn’t have it because he looks so different from the other kid you know on the spectrum.
  6. Kids with special needs are smart. Talented. Creative, and thoughtful. It may not be obvious all the time – their minds work differently.
  7. If my daughter is making strange noises, feel free to look. She’s just making them because she’s excited. Please don’t stand there and gape at us with your mouth hanging open.
  8. If you see my son in a grocery store, he may be head nuzzling, chewing on the corner of his shirt, or spinning. He’s anxious. I will not scold him, so please do not look at me as if I should. He can’t help how his body receives stimuli. He is trying to cope with the way his body is affected by his surroundings.
  9. From onlookers who think I am not addressing my child’s odd behaviors: I ask for a little empathy. Don’t judge. Try to understand that his environment strongly affects him.
  10. Please accept our kids the way that you assume we will accept yours.

I think I’m speaking for all of us when I say that what we really want you to know, what we’re screaming out loud, is that we, as mothers, are both terrified and brave.

Just like you.

That while our children may act differently from what you’re familiar with, they are our normals. That they’re full of emotion, fierce love, tender hearts, and hope.

Hope.

Our special needs kids are here, on purpose, and OutLoud.

Even when they’re silent.

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When Do Signs of Autism Appear?

By Gen Cohen

Uncovering the Early Signs of Autism

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15 Ways For Moms and Daughters to Have More Fun Together

By Dallas Stevens

15 Ways For Moms and Daughters to Have More Fun Together



With the chaos of juggling our own schedules with our kids' calendars, it's easy for your quality time to be limited to carpool conversations and the bedtime routine. Penciling in some one-on-one time with your favorite girl may require a little extra effort, but it'll pay off in spades. Here, 15 ways to stop stressing and start making memories.

1. Ice Cream Outing

Because calories don't count when you're spending time with your favorite girl!

2. Sign Up For a Mother-Daughter Cooking Class

The weeknight dinnertime rush tends to take the fun out of cooking. Bring it back by devoting a few hours to hands-on foodie fun with your little one. Look up a cooking school in your area — you may be surprised to find how many kid-friendly classes are out there.

3. Spa Day

Source: Thinkstock

Instead of trying to squeeze in a mani-pedi while your kids are at school or during your lunch hour, schedule appointments for two after school or on a weekend afternoon. It's a fun opportunity to indulge yourselves in some girl time.

Keep reading for more great mother-daughter date ideas!

4. Farmers Market Fun

Give her a lesson in where her food comes from by taking your daughter out for a one-on-one farmers market outing. Let her have a say in your selections, and encourage her to help turn your produce picks into dinner once you're back home.

5. Play Tourist in Your Own Town

We often take for granted that our own town or city has some pretty amazing sites to see. Spend an afternoon exploring with your girl. Head off to a destination that you've always wanted to check out, or take her to one of your own favorite spots that she hasn't seen yet.

6. Get Crafty

Source: Thinkstock

Sometimes staying home is the easiest and best way to bond. If she's got siblings, plan some crafty QT during their nap time or when dad or someone else can take them out for a bit.

7. Volunteer

Source: Thinkstock

Do good while having fun by signing up to volunteer for a few hours. It's a great opportunity to learn which causes speak to your daughter and spark a conversation about the importance of giving back.

8. Invite Grandma Along

Source: Thinkstock

What's better than two generations of family fun? Inviting a third along!

9. Get Active

Depending on her age, bring your daughter along for a jog in her stroller, a side-by-side power walk, a class at the gym, or whatever other fitness fun suits your fancy.

10. A Night at the Movies

Let your little chick pick the flick, and treat yourselves to a movie date.

11. The 9-5

Source: Thinkstock

If you're a working mom, make arrangements to bring your daughter in to visit your office for the day (or, depending on her age, an hour or two). Give her a better understanding of what her mom does for a living, and spark a conversation of what she could see herself doing as an adult.

12. Day Trippers

Take advantage of a sunny weekend afternoon, and take a meandering drive down a scenic stretch near your home, either with a drivable destination in mind or just an openness for adventure!

13. Plan a Picnic

Take the experience of planning and preparing a meal together, and make it even more special by enjoying it al fresco — just the two of you.

14. Ladies Who Lunch

Source: Thinkstock

This weekend, skip brunch or lunch with your gal pals, and instead take your special little lady out for a date a deux. A one-on-one meal is a great opportunity to get her to open up on what's happening at school, in her social circle, and more.

15. Explore Nature

Source: Thinkstock

There may be a chill in the air, but don't let it slow you down. Bundle up, and hit up a local nature trail, park, or boardwalk (hot cocoa in hand, perhaps?) for some outdoor exercise and conversation.

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Some Preggers "Rules" Examined...

By Scott Morris

Really? No sushi, no lunch meat, and I can't touch kitty litter?? 

[reposted from Lucie's List] 

There are TONS of pregnancy myths and fact about what you should-- and shouldn't -- be doing during your pregnancy. Perhaps you've already been admonished by an annoying coworker about the dangers lurking inside your turkey sandwich. 
 
The truth of the matter is that the majority of miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects occur from reasons that are totally outside of your control. This will either give you comfort or totally freak you out; hopefully it's the former.
 
As it turns out, many of the rules of the pregnancy police come not from actual data or studies, but from the "why-take-a-chance" philosophy that pervades American medicine, no matter how infinitesimal the actual risk.
 
First, a biology lesson.
 

Mr. (or Ms.) Fetus

Only half of your tiny peanut is identical to your own biology (the other half belonging, of course, to your sperm-donor-of-a-husband, or boyfriend, or fiance, or one-night-stand --- no one's judging here).

Fetus: nooo, don't attack meee!!

Because of this dissimilarity, your little ball of baby cells would normally be rejected by your body's own immune system (much like with a transplanted organ). Thankfully, our immune systems have evolved to NOT attack the developing fetus.

Essentially, your whole immune system lets down its guard for the duration of your pregnancy. As a result, pregnant women are more vulnerable to nasty stuff. This also explains why you'll get every strain of cold under the moon during the 3rd trimester, even if you are normally quite healthy.

So which of the rules are justifiable and which aren't? Let's have a look at some pregnancy myths that have been debunked or confirmed.

Listeria Hysteria

Listeria is the big bad bacteria that you want to avoid during pregnancy, mainly because it can cross the placental barrier and infect the fetus, which can result in miscarriage or fetal death.

True, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely to get listeria than the non-pregnant, but EVEN SO, it is EXTREMELY rare, infecting about 50-100 per million for those with a bun in the oven (3 to 5 million without).

~ This is even less likely than your chances of dying in a plane crash (1 in 30,000). 

* For comparison's sake, 1 in 84 people die in car crashes.

It should also be noted that most listeria infections in pregnancy occur in the 3rd trimester, when suppression of Th1-mediated immunity is at its maximum.

The highest risk foods for listeria are preserved fish (lox and stuff), cheese from unpasteurized milk, and deli meats. Pate (pa-TAAAAAY). Under cooked hot dogs. Stuff like that.

Bottom line: With those kinds of odds, you should worry more about your driving and less about your turkey sandwich.

Sushi 

Most American OBs say, "No sushi for you!" However, if you look at the data, 85% of seafood illness comes from eating raw shellfish -- that's right, bivalve mollusks, namely, raw oysters and clams

If you take those out of the equation, the risk of falling ill from eating seafood is 1 in 2 million servings. [By comparison, the risk from eating chicken is 1 in 25,000.] So... can we agree that we won't eat raw oysters and clams? I mean, really? Millions of Japanese women are not wrong (and yes, with some of the best public health officials in the world, they've looked into it).

Furthermore, fish eaten in a sushi restaurant in the US is almost always flash frozen before it gets to the restaurant, so any parasites or bacteria in the fish would have been killed during the process.

Salmon-ella, ha!

Bottom line: No raw shellfish, but your salmon roll shouldn't be any more scary than your chicken sandwich.

Freddy Mercury

"You should eat lots of fish when you're pregnant." No wait... "You should avoid fish when you're pregnant."

Well, which is it?

"Between the warnings about parasites in sushi and about mercury in certain species of fish, pregnant women are being scared off fish altogether. And that's bad news, since the fatty acids in fish are the ideal nourishment for a developing baby," said Steven Shaw, a former food writer for The New York Times.

Furthermore, researchers found that greater maternal intake of omega-3 fatty acids in fish was associated with better fine motor development, more pro-social behavior, and better social development.

So is there a "too much"? All researchers can do is guess at it, but many suggest that the warnings against seafood consumption are dramatically overblown.

In fact, a study in the Seychelles [a high fish-eating population] showed no link between the children's development over their first 6 years and the levels of mercury contained in their mothers' hair during pregnancy, which is a measure of the amounts to which fetuses were exposed.

Bottom line: Common sense would tell us to limit consumption of fish that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (sorry, no shark for you this week [snort]). 

The Truth About Kitty Litter

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite whose only natural host is the cat. Reeeer.

The truth is if you've had an indoor/outdoor cat for years, your chances of being immune from a previous exposure are fairly high - perhaps as high as 90%.

Studies show... of the 10% of pregnant cat owners that are susceptible, about 2% of those are exposed to toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. Of those (now 0.2%), only 30% of the 0.2% become infected. If infected (this keeps getting better, huh?), only 30% of those are "clinically infected", meaning their newborn will be impacted in some noticeable way.

Where are we on the math? About 0.0018 (or, 1.8 in 100,000) of the fetuses of pregnant cat owners will get sick from toxoplasmosis. You can see why doctors really don't see this very often.

Should you tell your husband or partner that this really isn't a threat after all?

Hell-to-tha-NO! Let him think it's highly lethal for, like... the rest of your life (come on, you can't get drunk for the next few months, the least he can do is scoop some kitty crap, yeah?). It'll be our little secret. ;-)


Conclusion: Ladies, I'm not saying you can't get sick from things like listeria, sushi, and kitty litter. I'm just saying they're fairly unlikely (k, so don't sue me). The beauty is that everyone can decide based on their own risk tolerance. I love 'dis country!

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