All smiles: Early diagnosis gives young girl with autism a fresh start
Posted 12/1/2016 by LULU ZHAO, MD
Obstetrician/Gynecologist, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Lulu Zhao, MD
Heather Bogle knew something wasn’t quite right with the development of her daughter, Miley. Although Miley was only 3 years old, she rarely made eye contact. She sorted toys by color, carefully lining them up, and became upset if one was out of order. And although Miley communicated with words when she was younger, she had recently stopped speaking altogether. Heather repeatedly expressed her concerns to Miley’s pediatrician, but was told that Miley was fine.
After months of worry, Heather decided to find a different pediatrician. She made an appointment with Marcus Baratian, MD, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Healthy Kids Pediatrics in Streetsboro. The switch gave Miley a new start in life.
“On my first visit with Dr. Baratian, he took time to really listen to my concerns. He carefully observed Miley at play and tried to communicate with her,” explains Heather.
“At that first visit, he told me Miley had autism spectrum disorder. I didn’t know anything about the diagnosis, but was relieved that someone listened to me.”
Dr. Baratian referred Miley to Max Wiznitzer, MD, a pediatric neurologist with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, for further evaluation and treatment. Dr. Wiznitzer ruled out any other health conditions that may mimic autism and confirmed Miley’s diagnosis.
“For anyone with autism spectrum disorder, getting a definitive diagnosis and seeking therapy right away is very important. The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome,” says Dr. Baratian, who coordinates closely with Dr. Wiznitzer. “The family did an outstanding job seeking the diagnosis and care Miley needed.”
Signs of autism
Some early signs of autism may include:
- Engages in repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, hand flapping or lining up toys
- Avoids eye contact or physical touch
- Delay or regression of speech or other social milestones
- Likes routines, order and rituals and has difficulty with change
Trust your instincts. If you think your child may have early symptoms of autism, talk with your pediatrician about your concerns and the best way to help your child. Don’t wait. Early intervention can make a big difference.
Miley has a moderate to severe form of autism spectrum disorder, which greatly affects her communication and social skills. After diagnosis, she immediately began occupational and speech therapy. She also participates in a horse therapy program, which helps improve the social skills of children with autism through riding and caring for horses.
The efforts are working. Miley is learning how to communicate and be more comfortable around others. Now, at age 5, Miley has begun to say some words and knows a little sign language to help her communicate her needs.
“With therapy, Miley is a much happier child. She is no longer as frustrated because now we can understand her needs. She is all smiles when we take her to the store or crowded events – something she couldn’t tolerate before. She loves to swim and is making good progress in school,” says Heather. “She is integrated with mainstream children in kindergarten.”
Miley still sees her neurologist every six months and receives regular, preventive care from Dr. Baratian.
“Dr. Baratian is always there for us. We’re so happy we found him,” says Heather.
“We really try to know our families personally,” says Dr. Baratian. “We do much more than just treat illness – we work with parents to help support well-rounded children.”
The key to a healthy start in life
Regular checkups and visits to the pediatrician are an important part of maintaining your child’s health and diagnosing health issues early. Need a primary care doctor who’s close to home? Go to Rainbow.org/PrimaryCare to find a Rainbow doctor at a location near you.