Mercy Attending Pediatrician Ashanti Woods, M.d., FAAP, Offers Insights into the Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism
Mercy attending pediatrician Ashanti Woods, M.D., FAAP, offers insights into the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Board-Certified in Pediatrics, Dr. Woods earned his medical degree in 2007 at the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He completed his residency in 2010 at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in Baltimore, MD.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is an umbrella term for a range of developmental disorders characterized by delays in communication, difficulty with social interaction, and often, repetitive behaviors. Features of autism, which can be mild to severe, present in the childhood years, but many parents or pediatricians start to notice these differences right around 15 to 18 months of age or older. When a child is two years of age and is not speaking and gets very agitated or upset with new faces or prefers to play exclusively by him or herself, autism spectrum disorder must be considered.
It is important to have a doctor's evaluation because at each visit the physician is evaluating a child's development. Development involves assessing a child's social skills, language skills, gross motor function (like walking, running), and fine motor function (such as the ability to hold a crayon). After infancy, the common ages for well child checks are 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, and 24 months. After two years of age, evaluations generally take place yearly. If a child is not reaching his or her developmental milestones at the aforementioned visits, that child is usually seen more frequently (monthly to every 3 months). It is important for a child to be seen by a doctor so that if delays exist, the physician, after discussions with the parent and family, can you get the child started in early developmental intervention therapy.
After a pediatrician or parent suspects autism, a referral is generally made to a behavioral or developmental pediatrician. Following confirmation of an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, the child is usually started in developmental intervention therapy to include speech therapy to address any communication delays that exists and occupational therapy to work on any social delays and repetitive behaviors. Many states have an autism and related disorders center that serves as a centralized hub of specialists that treat autism. It should be noted that some children with autism may have other medical necessities and may need to see additional pediatric subspecialists like the gastroenterologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, or geneticists.
While autism is a developmental disorder and is not yet curable, it is believed that early intervention has consistently demonstrated improvement in the developing child's brain. Early identification (i.e. trips to the doctor for well child checks) can lead to early intervention. Again, because autism spectrum disorder characterizes mild to severe forms of the developmental disorder, there are some affected individuals who will lead very independent lives as adults requiring little to no assistance for their day to day activities, while there will be some individuals affected by the disorder who will require assistance for quite some time.
--Ashanti W. Woods, M.D.
Dr. Woods has received a number of awards in his field, including The G. Bowers Mansdorfer Award for Primary Care presented by Mercy Medical Center, and the Primary Care Pediatrician Award, by the University of Maryland Ambulatory Center.
Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at www.mdmercy.com, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.