OHSU Child Development and Rehabilitation Center Joins National Network to Improve Autisms Treatment

06/10/04    Portland, Ore.

The Child Development and Rehabilitation Center (CDRC) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) will be joining together with four other university affiliated hospitals in the United States to form a consortium dedicated to achieving a better understanding of the medically related health issues among individuals with autism. This Autism Treatment Network (ATN) will be led by the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and will include pediatric specialists from Columbia University Medical School, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Washington as well as the CDRC.

The vision of the ATN, using scientifically rigorous protocols, is to identify what medically related disorders appear to be most prevalent among the autistic population, determine the nature of both subtle and more obvious symptoms of these disorders and document with interventions appear to be most effective for the management of these disorders. Given that medical disorders can often go undetected and consequently untreated in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) population, the ultimate goal of the ATN is to develop "best practices" for the improved medical care of children, adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum.

The CDRC and the Northwest Autism Foundation (NWAF), which is collaborating with ATN, will present further details pertaining to this consortium with parents and health care professionals at the Autism Oasis Conference 2004, scheduled to be held on Saturday, June 19, 2004, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Oregon Convention Center.

"We are really excited about the opportunity to collaborate with other leaders in the child development field in an effort to improve the care available to patients with autism," said Brian Rogers, M.D., director of the CDRC and professor of pediatrics in the OHSU School of Medicine.

The rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 166 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1990, the national rate was 4.5 in 10,000 children.

There is no universally accepted standard of care for medical assessment and treatment of individuals on the autism spectrum. Health care professionals around the country frequently use different methods of management, none of which have been scientifically proven to be effective. The goal of the ATN is to create a database of information and outcomes about various medical interventions which will lead to more effective treatment and better outcomes. In addition, this new collaboration will provide an opportunity for specialists such as gastroenterologists and metabolic specialists to share valuable insights into all health conditions that impact people with autism.

"I believe that the medical treatment of autistic people is one of the most important functions that we can provide", states John DeHoney, executive director of ATN. "ATN is the foundation that will eventually produce a universal treatment protocol for autism."

The CDRC's Program for Autism Research, Education and Treatment provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary diagnostic evaluations to children suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder. Staff also provides recommendations and consultation to parents and other family members, as well as referrals to other CDRC programs, pediatric specialists and community-based therapists. Current research emphasizes the importance of early identification and intervention in order to achieve the best outcome. Educational opportunities exist for graduate students and professionals in the community interested in autism.

Margaret Bauman, M.D., pediatrician and child neurologist at Harvard Medical School's Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, has been named the medical director of the ATN. Bauman is director of Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Service (LADDERS), a comprehensive multidisciplinary program of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and the Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital. LADDERS provides health care services, evaluation, treatment, advocacy and coordinated care for children, adolescents and adults with a wide variety of handicapped conditions. LADDERS is also actively involved in a number of clinical research projects related to ASD.

ATN partners will begin work this summer to develop scientifically rigorous protocols for assessing and treating children with ASD. However, it will be one to two years before patient information will be added to the ATN's new database.

Parents, caregivers and educators will learn more about this exciting new collaboration at the Autism Oasis Conference on Saturday, June 19, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Speakers include Rogers; Darryn Sikora, Ph.D., director of the CDRC autism program, Bauman and autism research expert Steve Edelson. Topics include the new CDRC autism program, insurance needs of children with autism and a panel of parents who will discuss steps they have successfully implemented to help their autistic children. For more information and to register, please visit the website at www.autismnwaf.org or call John DeHoney at 503 783-2710. There is no cost to attend this conference.

On the evening of June 19, the CDRC will be hosting a dinner for pediatricians and medical specialists to discuss the center's role in ATN, the network's goal and objectives, and how it will impact the medical community. Please contact Michelle Dahl at 503 494-8362 for more information about the event.

The OHSU Child Development and Rehabilitation Center (CDRC) is Oregon and southwest Washington's leader in providing direct clinical health care services, coordination of care and public policy advocacy for individuals with disabilities and/or special health needs. CDRC's website is http://cdrc.ohsu.edu.

The Northwest Autism Foundation's (NWAF) goals are to provide education and information to those who care for people with autism. The foundation hopes its efforts will increase public awareness and support for these families. For more information about NWAF, visit their website at www.autismnwaf.org.