The dramatic rise in the number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) has been described as a national medical emergency, with the latest estimates indicating 1 in 110 children will be diagnosed this year- more than with childhood cancer, juvenile, diabetes, or pediatric AIDS combined. Although autism is a neurobiological disorder, its pathophysiology remains obscure. The diagnosis of autism is made based on behavioral data and most interventions are non-medical, which can frequently be unsettling to families and to providers. With autism increasingly in the spotlight, providers are more likely to be asked by parents or other professionals to weigh-in on autism-related concerns. Yet many providers feel uncertain about making the diagnosis – or they may feel pressured into making a diagnosis of autism to help secure services. Families can experience the diagnosis of autism as overwhelming and devastating –and seek answers to their questions about the future potential for the child with autism. Dr. Erica Kovacs is both a clinician and a researcher with the focus on Autism. This makes her particularly well qualified to discuss this complex disorder from multiple perspectives.
Learning objectives. This workshop is designed to help you:
1) Explain what exactly is Autism or “Autism Spectrum Disorders.” We will review the hallmark features of this disorder in detail, comparing to typical development as well as to other disorders.
2) Explain why there are so many more children being diagnosed with autism. We will review the reason for the increased prevalence and implications for providers and families.
3) Describe how to make an accurate diagnosis. What does a “good” diagnostic evaluation look like? Can we really make an accurate
diagnosis of autism for a very young child? We will discuss the assessment of autism, including benefits and limitations of current instruments, and how to distinguish from other disorders.
4) Describe what happens once the diagnosis has been made. What are the therapies for autism? We will review both medical and non-medical treatments.
5) Review what we know about how effective these therapies are- both in the short-term and in the long-term. How can this be applied to the individual child?
6) Review the co-morbidities and related problems seen in autism that providers and families need to be aware of. We will take a look at aspects of behavioral and physical health that may be of particular concern in autism.
7) Review the latest advances in research on autism. We will review research into causes and treatments for autism and where research is heading.
Continuing education for mental health professionals: Eight (8) CEs are being offered for this workshop.
About the speaker:
Erica Kovacs, Ph.D. is a child clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist. She is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons within the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Program. She specializes in child development and child psychopathology, pediatric neuropsychology, and autism spectrum disorders. She has experience communicating with researchers, professionals, families, and the general public.
Dr. Kovacs graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, where she studied as an Echols Scholar and earned a multiple awards and honors in psychology and in philosophy. She earned
her doctoral degree in Child Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA and then completed predoctoral and postdoctoral
fellowships at the prestigious Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine. In 2004 Dr. Kovacs joined the faculty of Columbia University in New York, NY as a clinical neuropsychologist within a multidisciplinary team specializing in developmental neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism. She routinely conducts comprehensive neuropsychological assessments of children, adolescents, and adults with neurodevelopmental
disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
In keeping with her strong scientist-practitioner background and training, Dr. Kovacs’ time is spent on both clinical and research activities, including in the role of principal investigator. Her research focuses on the application and translation of scientific findings into the “real-world” to
help improve health outcomes in children with ASD and their families. Dr. Kovacs has served as the lead psychologist for Columbia’s participation in the Autism Treatment Network/Autism Speaks collaborative research and clinical network since 2006. In this role, she helped to develop and study best practices for assessment in ASD, as well as to promote the dissemination of reliable information to families affected by ASD. Dr. Kovacs serves as an expert research consultant, advising other researchers on study design and the interpretation of findings on various autism-related projects; and as an expert reviewer for autism-related manuscripts submitted to scientific journals. Dr. Kovacs is currently collaborating with sociologists, health services researchers, and health economists from across the county and internationally to develop health outcome measurement tools in ASD and methods for establishing the cost-effectiveness of services provided to children with ASD. She has co-authored papers published in peer-reviewed
scientific journals in the area of autism spectrum disorders.