Sunday, June 29, 2008

My response to a query posted on ParentDish, about what to say to a friend about their child - who seems to be displaying autisic behaviors?...

Having done Shaken Baby prevention education for eight years, I'd have to say I'm adverse to "telling" anyone about sensitive subjects like these.

As an education workshop title aptly put it, "telling ain't teaching."

Educating is different, especially if it is based on your own experiences and your collected wisdom. And I think it's especially important to reframe early intervention as an opportunity, not a stigmatization.

In our experience, that requires education at many levels. Educators, health care professionals, media and what I call reference parents - those who are perceived in their community as models of effective parenting and sources of knowledge.

Unfortunately, while it's a lot easier to have such conversations in an informed and educated social context, those contexts are by far still the exceptions.

That can change.

For example, New York (and 10 other states) now requires hospitals to offer SBS education to new parents before they leave the hospital.

Our pediatrician says this has made it much easier for him to talk to new parents about the danger of shaking young children and the need to have a coping plan. It's no longer a question for the parents why their pediatrician thought it necessary to talk to them about child abuse. Now, it's just one more thing he can do to help them keep their child safe.

Individual action, in the absence of social action, is a much harder slog.

Hopefully, the increased concern about autism will not only raise anxiety, but raise the information in the community about the importance of early remedial action.

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