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A Child With Autism, Not An Autistic Child

“My child has what?” I have to admit, as a medical provider, I feel I should have known more about autism. My child was 18 months old, wasn’t talking, and wouldn’t turn her head to look at me if I yelled her name from only a few feet away. After ruling out a hearing issue, her pediatrician referred her for further evaluation at a children’s hospital downstate. She was evaluated by a speech therapist, a behaviorist and a child psychologist, all in one day. Their conclusion: autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.

Jon Borton, PA-C, and family

As a medical provider, it made sense. However, as a parent, I didn’t want to admit that my child was anything but perfect. That quickly changed. I had taken care of a few patients with diagnosed autism, but my daughter didn’t have some of the same characteristics that these patients had. I went from knowing what autism was and how it was generally diagnosed to resident expert (in my mind) in a very short period of time. Then an interesting thing happened. My son, who is 18 months older than my daughter, started talking at an expected age. He never had any signs of hearing issues and would turn his head to look in my direction if I called his name.  However, he lacked eye contact, was socially awkward compared to peers, and required strict adherence to patterns. Something just wasn’t “normal,” whatever that is. I initially thought, he only has an attention problem (which he does). After learning as much as I could about ASD, I started to strongly suspect that he had the condition as well. My son eventually went through the same testing and was given the same diagnosis.

The description of what my family went through over two years is used to highlight a couple of things. One is that every child is an individual and should be treated as such. A given condition, especially those in mental health, can present with a wide range of symptoms. Second, and just as important, is to hopefully increase awareness of autism in the general public. Since my ASD journey began, I have played a part in diagnosing several children and adolescents with the condition. I don’t know if it was “meant to be”, but that argument has often been hard to refute.

Autism spectrum disorder has become the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States. In 2000, the CDC estimated that 1 in 150 children had autism. The most recent statistics estimate that number to be between 1 in 40 and 1 in 59 children. The increase in the prevalence of autism has been mostly attributed to improvements in screening and diagnosis of the disorder. It affects all racial and ethnic backgrounds and is about four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls

As one might imagine, there are several signs and symptoms of autism. When a child is first seen by a primary care provider, we start to look for signs of developmental or communication challenges. We observe how your child laughs, looks to you for reassurance, tries to regain your attention during a conversation, points or waves, responds to his or her name, or cries. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for autism at the 18 and 24 month well child visits. This is most commonly done using the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, or M-CHAT. A positive screen can indicate the need for further evaluation. It is important to note that a normal screen does not rule out the diagnosis of autism or other developmental disorders. There is an online form of this that can be accessed by anyone at www.m-chat.org.

The treatment of ASD requires a comprehensive approach. Because individuals with ASD have varying degrees of impairment in social and behavioral function, management needs to be tailored to the child’s age and specific needs. The goals are to maximize functioning, move the child toward independence, and improve quality of life. There is increasing evidence that intervention is most effective when initiated as early as possible. A notable treatment approach for those with ASD is applied behavior analysis (ABA), which encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors to improve a variety of skills. Speech therapy and occupational therapy are often used to target specific deficits as well. While no medication specifically treats autism, medications can be used to treat common coexisting conditions/symptoms, such as hyperactivity, inattention, aggression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, depressive symptoms, and sleep dysfunction. To any parent who has concerns about possible developmental issues, autism, etc. with your child, the best advice I can give is this: Be an advocate for your child. Your concerns should be heard and addressed. Make an appointment with your child’s primary care provider and have an assessment done. Again, the earlier a diagnosis is made, the earlier treatment may be able to be started. I was lucky enough to be able to do so for my children at an earlier than average age. Since beginning to understand the things that they struggle with, it has made every milestone that much more significant. I like to say that my children are not just autistic. They are so much more, with their own strengths and weaknesses. They are children who happen to have autism. They are my world.

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The Importance of Staying on Schedule with Your Child’s Vaccinations

One of the best ways to protect your children from preventable disease is to visit their pediatrician regularly and have them vaccinated when it is appropriate. Getting your children vaccinated is necessary for more than school admission. In addition to providing your child’s vaccine record to their school’s student health office, your child needs to be protected from several contagious diseases.

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Common Medical Problems That Flare Up in Springtime

Spring often means warmer temperatures and a return to outdoor living. It’s also the time of year when illnesses start to wreak havoc on your outdoor plans so make sure you stay healthy and strong with the help of your Family Health Care Primary care provider.

Allergies

Seasonal Allergies

The very thing that many people look forward to in the springtime is the same thing that causes them so much grief. Warmer weather means flowers, shrubs, and trees bloom, filling the air with fresh scents and pollen—Yes, the dreaded pollen that causes so people so much trouble. Since seasonal allergies aren’t exactly rare, it’s not unusual for several members of the family to be affected. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, visit clinics that offer family health care for allergy medications and other treatments to make it easier to breathe when the trees bloom.

Asthma

Spring is hard for asthma sufferers because of the changes in the air temperature and outdoor chemicals. When spring rolls around, many people use yard fertilizers, bug sprays, and other chemicals that aggravate asthma symptoms in adults and children. If your child is having problems with their asthma or using their inhaler more than twice a week, tell the doctor about this during your well child visits at Family Health Care.

Colds

Do you think of the common cold as being a wintertime problem? You’re not alone. Many people are surprised when they get sick in the spring. Did you know that spring and fall are primetime for infections, especially rhinovirus, which is responsible for 50% of all regular colds? The good news is that by following simple prevention strategies, including washing your hands, you have a good chance of staying healthy this spring.

Ticks

Lyme Disease

As soon as the weather warms up, the ticks are out and about too. It’s not unusual for families to venture out on a hike on the first warm day and end up bringing ticks home. Deer ticks transmit Lyme Disease. These ticks are found in tall grasses and other vegetation. Health professionals urge their patients to be vigilant and check for ticks after being outdoors. Look for telltale signs, such as rashes on the body and fever. If you find a tick, use fine-tip tweezers to pull it from the skin, making sure that the head is intact. If you weren’t able to get the head, visit a full-service family health care center for treatment to remove the head.

Sport Injuries

Another medical problem that flares up in the spring is sports injuries. Soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, and any other sport you can think of kicks off when the weather gets warmer. That means health care centers see an influx of patients with varying degree of sports injuries. Doctors suggest that their patients, young, old, and in between, stay active year-round to make sure their bodies are conditioned for intense sport sessions when the weather warms up. Even if you’re just playing recreational sports on an after-school or work team, this is good advice to take.

Don’t let the warmer weather trick you into ignoring signs from your body that something’s wrong. If you’re sick or injured and need affordable family health care stop by Family Health Care today.

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A Guide on Newborn Vaccinations for First-Time Parents

Baby getting a shot

While vaccines are a hot-button topic these days, science has proven that they’re more effective than ever at fighting serious diseases, such as polio, meningitis, and the flu. If you’re confused about childhood vaccinations in West Michigan and when to get them, keep reading for an easy breakdown for first-time parents.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that causes irreversible damage and chronic infection to the liver. The vaccination is given in three doses, the first being right after childbirth. Mothers who are positive for hepatitis B can pass the virus on to their children during natural delivery. The second and third doses are given at 1 month old and 6 six months old, respectively. Immunization is usually good for up to 20 years.

Hepatitis A

While hepatitis A is more common in adults, immunizations at an early age reduce the chances of developing hepatitis A later in life. The vaccine is usually administered between 1 to 2 years old with a follow-up vaccination 6 months later.

Rotavirus

The rotavirus has two forms, thus, there are two vaccines to treat both varieties. The vaccine for the first rotavirus is given at 2 and 4 months old while the second rotavirus vaccine is given at 2, 4, and 6 months old. Both viruses cause vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration but the vaccine prevents 85% of cases in the first year.

DTaP

DTaP is the combination vaccine that protects infants against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. DTaP doses are given five times: at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 months, and 18 months. Booster shots of DTaP are administered at 4 and 6 years of age. Immunization is good for approximately 10 years.

Vaccinations and needle

Polio

Polio is a paralyzing virus eradicated in the 1950s thanks to widespread vaccination. Doses are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Booster shots to maintain immunity levels are given to children between 4 and 6 before they’re admitted to school.

MMRV

The MMRV vaccine will immunize your child against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chicken pox). These four diseases and their long term complications are not seen as often because of widespread immunization. MMRV vaccines are given between 12 to 15 months and again around 4 years of age before children start school.

Influenza

Newborns are usually not immunized against the flu because the mother is usually vaccinated during pregnancy. Doctors suggest waiting until their 6-month checkup before getting this vaccination, except in cases of widespread outbreak. Children and adults should get their flu shot every year as every year several children and adults die from flu or its complications.

PCV

Short for pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV protects against 13 of the most common and severe strains of pneumococcal bacteria which cause pneumonia and ear infections. There are four doses of PCV given at 2, 4, and 6 months old with the final immunization administered at 12 months old. As bacteria adapt and become resistant to modern antibiotics, the PCV vaccine is more important than ever.

Meningitis

Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria are responsible for the development of meningitis, an infection of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Immunizations are administered at 2 and 4 months of age. A third dose is given at 6 months old depending on the brand of the vaccine and the health of the child. The final booster is given around 12 months, and immunizations last for several years.

For childhood vaccinations and pediatric services schedule an appointment today with a primary care provider at Family Health Care.

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Top 5 Daily Habits to Keep You Healthy

Water

Rather than lamenting your poor health or stressing over the lifestyle changes you know you should make, start small with a few key habits that pack a big punch. Read on for 5 smart habits to employ daily for optimal health and wellness from family health care providers in Cadillac, MI.

Increase Your Water Intake

One of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do to improve your health and overall wellbeing immediately is to improve your hydration intake. An increased hydration level will help your immune system, energy levels, skin, and hunger cues. People often find that they’re more easily able to lose weight, complete physical tasks, and be productive throughout the day when they focus on drinking enough water. Try drinking an extra glass of water before meals, carry a reusable water bottle around with you throughout the day, or track your water intake to inspire you to take those extra sips all day long. Aim to start with at least 64 ounces a day, and increase those numbers as needed.

Move Your Body

Many people who set exercise and physical activity goals feel like they have to completely overhaul their whole lifestyle to make any progress. Luckily, health benefits can be reaped with less drastic measures, and any additional movement throughout the day is beneficial. Park at the back of the parking lot to get some extra steps, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do a few bodyweight exercises during commercial breaks, go on a walk at lunchtime, try a new fitness class at the gym, or simply stand instead of sitting whenever possible.  

Veggies

Remember Veggie Power

To make improvements to your diet, one simple way to begin is to remember the power of vegetables. They are full of nutritious vitamins, contain needed fiber, and are low in calories, so you can eat less overall while still feeling satisfied. By trying to include a few servings of vegetables at every meal, you can enjoy a more nutritious diet and consume fewer calories overall.

Prioritize Sleep Health

Another major concern for most people is getting enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation has immediate effects on your physical and mental health, so aiming for 6-8 hours of quality sleep each night is a straightforward way to see immediate benefits. Avoid electronics for an hour before bed, limit caffeine intake, keep your room dark and cool, and set up a nightly sleep hygiene routine to help your body and brain settle in for the night.

Take a Moment to Be Mindful

Mindfulness and gratitude are getting a lot of attention in the health world right now, and for a good reason. Taking a few minutes each day to engage in mindfulness can help you feel more balanced, less stressed, and more able to take on your daily tasks. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, gratitude journals, or nightly visualization exercises are a great place to start.

To ask more specific questions about your health or set up an appointment for full-service family health care in Cadillac, MI, call the pros at Family Health Care today!

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