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News and Featured Stories from St. Vincent's Medical Center
Published: 04/04/2012

St. Vincent’s New Autism Program -
a Welcome Resource for Families

St. Vincent's Health Services Autism and Developmental Services Dr. Jennifer Robin LeeThe term ‘autistic’ is often understood to describe a person who has difficulty in communicating or interacting with others. “The word is broadly used when referring to an autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” explained Jennifer Robin Lee, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist and medical director of St.

Vincent’s Autism and Developmental Services.

“ASD is the classification for a range of pervasive complex neurodevelopment disorders that include classic autism as well as Asperger’s and Rett’s syndromes.”

According to the Autism Society, about one percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages three to 17 have an ASD. “We’re seeing an increased rate in youngsters with these disorders,” Dr. Lee said. “Yet there’s been a dearth of services available to families with a child or teen whose potential and interpersonal relationships, without expert help, are likely to be more adversely affected through the various stages of life. That’s why we’re so excited by the comprehensive new autism program here at St. Vincent’s.”

An individualized approach at St. Vincent’s

The availability of an extensive program (largely insurance-covered) such as this is rare and proving to be a boon to the greater Bridgeport community.

“Our team of professionals includes a clinical psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, school psychologist and a child and adolescent psychiatrist,” said Dr. Lee. These are heartening words for area residents trying to find the kind of integrated expertise their loved one with ASD requires.

Starting with a thorough diagnosis and psychiatric evaluation all the way through child, teen and family counseling, socialization and group activities, parent support services and putting families in touch with local resources and agencies, members of this team work one-on-one with the individual and the family. “Each will have a different profile,” Dr. Lee noted, “with symptoms, difficulties and strengths showing in a wide variety of ways. We look at all aspects including family health history to get an in-depth understanding of each person we see.”

Signs and symptoms of possible ASD

Symptoms of ASDs vary. Many are mild or may not show up until a child is past the first birthday or even as old as three. Occasionally, a child may not seem to have a problem until he or she is in school and struggling. But most signs show up early-on, including:
• Not pointing at objects or responding to their own name by 12 months
• Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
• Having trouble understanding other’s feelings or talking about their own
• Delayed speech and language skills; repeating words or phrases over and over
• Getting easily upset by change; overreacting to sounds, smells, or how things look
• Obsessive interests; repeated hand flapping, rocking or spinning in circles

For more information on this exceptionally comprehensive new program at St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Services, Westport campus, call (203) 341-4501 or visit us online at www.stvincentsbehavioralhealth.org/

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