Thursday, August 4, 2005
Autistic Disorder, or (as it is more commonly called) autism, is one type of "pervasive developmental disorder" usually diagnosed in childhood. Individuals with autism display marked impairments in social interaction, often evidenced by abnormal or repetitive behavior, lack of peer relationships, highly restricted preoccupations, and communication abnormalities. (In the movie "Rain Man," Dustin Hoffman played an adult with autism.) Many websites list the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic criteria for autistic disorder, including this one: http://locus.umdnj.edu/autism/dsmiv.html
Most children with autism unquestionably suffer from disabilities that interfere with their ability to learn, but they may encounter difficulties in receiving needed educational support from public school systems. A valuable article — with many useful links to additional information — appears on the current Medscape website, at this URL:http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/508088?src=hp12.infocus (free with registration)
The article is an interview with Jill G. Escher, an attorney who has a child with autism and who works in the field of autism law. In the interview, Ms. Escher describes statutes, policies, rights, and procedures available to gain appropriate services for children with autism. She also discusses what parents might do to get their children evaluated by experts, information sources for parents concerning books and websites about the law and autism, and the pros and cons of attorney representation. Although the article is directed toward physicians who treat patients with autism and the parents/guardians of these children, the article provides a useful introduction to attorneys and others interested in this topic.