Monday, June 4, 2012

Doctors Can Learn from Neurodiversity Movement

A must-read from the American Medical Association's Virtual Mentor, an article by Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, an associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland. Dr. Nicolaidis co-directs the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), directs the Samuel Wise Fellowship in General Internal Medicine at OHSU, and serves as a standing member of the NIH Mental Health Services study section. 

When, at age 3, my son received a medical diagnosis of autism, my husband and I received a list of intensive treatments that we needed to initiate as quickly as possible and a pep talk saying that if we did these things there was a good chance we could “fix him.” As a mother, I was terrified. Images of Rain Man filled my mind, quickly followed by painful memories of security officers trying to restrain my beloved 350-pound adult autistic patient during a violent meltdown. As a physician and researcher, I did what I was best trained to do — I quickly took charge of the situation, scheduled consultations with every type of therapist in the city, and immersed myself in the autism literature. But I soon realized that expert opinions clashed greatly, there were no easy answers, and the evidence in support of the various therapies was extremely limited.

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