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The Be Well Podcast - Autism with Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP

Listen in or read the partial transcript below as Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP discusses autism, the importance of early diagnosis, what screening can be done and the breakthrough program at Skagit Regional Health to help children with autism. 

Be Well Podcast - Ashleigh Adkins

Maggie McKay (host): According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects approximately one in 44 children in the United States today. Autism refers to a range of conditions, characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, social skills, speech and nonverbal communication. But there is a lot more to know about this complex condition and how to manage it if your child is diagnosed with autism.

My guest today is Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP. She practices Family Medicine at Skagit Regional Health - Smokey Point. She's received specialized autism training and earned the Seattle Children's Center of Excellence Autism Certificate. Ashleigh will tell us about the importance of early diagnosis, what screening should be done, and the breakthrough program she has created with Skagit Regional Health to help children with autism.

Maggie McKay (host): This is the Be Well Podcast from Skagit Regional Health.
Let me congratulate you on the completion of the Seattle Children's Center of Excellence Autism Certificate.

Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP: Thanks, Maggie.

Maggie McKay (host): It's good to have you here. So just to start off, can you tell us what is autism and how common is it?

Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP: Well, like you described in your intro, autism spectrum disorder is a disability that some children develop that causes significant social communication behavioral challenges. Autism is becoming more and more common. And the worldwide estimate is that one in 44 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Maggie McKay (host): So is that up the numbers from say five years ago? And why do you think?

Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP: Those numbers are climbing at a very quick rate. I actually just updated my information and it had changed from one in 54 children to one in 44 children, just in the matter of a year. And I think that why we're seeing that is luckily providers are becoming more and more in tune with diagnosing or or at least being able to recognize children that are high risk for autism.

Maggie McKay (host): Can you please tell us the importance of an early autism diagnosis and intervention?

Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP: Absolutely. So parents can identify their children with autism at quite an early age. But in the medical community, we first started to recognize autism around 18 to 24 months. We have in primary care specialty an assessment that we use called the M-CHAT screening. We do this assessment at the age of 18 months, and we repeat it at age 24 months. Once we identify a child that's high risk for autism, then the primary care doctor can get the child into a specialist that can further make the diagnosis of autism.

Maggie McKay (host): So the sooner, the better to do this screening?

Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP: Absolutely. If your child's going in for frequent well-child visits, then your primary care doctor should be doing these assessments at the 18 and 24-month mark. And if they're not, then I would recommend that you ask your pediatrician to complete them.

Maggie McKay (host): And Ashleigh, can you explain what the autism certification through Seattle Children's Hospital is and why it was created?

Ashleigh Adkins, DNP-FNP, ARNP: Yeah. So there's so many children that are starting to be recognized with autism. But unfortunately, Seattle Children's, our local children's hospital has quite a large wait-list of children that are seeking assessment and diagnosis of this condition. Unfortunately, there's about a two-year wait to be seen by a neurodevelopmental specialist to be diagnosed with autism.

So what Seattle Children's did is they created this Center of Excellence Certificate, so that primary care doctors could start identifying children that were high risk for autism and make diagnoses so that these children can get early intervention.

To listen to the rest of the podcast or read the full transcript, visit here.