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Ami Klin: Reaching Children With Autism

Ami Klin, PhD, of the Yale Child Study Center, is among the researchers who report on autism and attention in the advance online edition of Nature. Here are excerpts from his comments emailed to WebMD.

We know that the earlier we are able to detect autism and intervene, the more likely we are to optimize the child’s outcome. So early detection is critical.

We hope to capitalize on this finding in order to test babies from the time they are born. Our hope is to detect vulnerabilities for autism as early as possible, so as to intervene with the hope to capitalize on the babies’ brain malleability.

I have 20 years serving children with autism and their families, and their well-being is all that matters.

There is nothing in our research that in any way conveys a sense that children [with autism] are any less human, any less deserving of our love and respect, or any less of anything at all. It’s not an issue that children with autism have no relations with the world, or with parents, or with significant others. It is that the way they seem to learn about this world is rather different than the strategies used by their peers.

By better understanding how they do this, the better we will be able to reach them, and like in any personal relationship, the better they will be able to reach us.

It is critical for us not to focus exclusively or even largely on how the social mind and brain ‘break down.’ It is equally if not more important an interest how the children build the minds and brains.

They seem to be doing that in very special ways, conferring specialness to their perspective of the world. In so doing, they are adding diversity, uniqueness, and most importantly, a new way of seeing the world. And God knows that we need diversity so as to not become entrenched in old ways of thinking about things. Their different perspective might give us solutions that others, with the typical mind and brain, might never see.

Of course, I say all that without at any second minimizing or trying to wish away the grave challenges that parents and their children face every day contending with this condition and the difficulties that it brings to navigating successfully the challenges of everyday life.

Read the WebMD news story about Klin’s study on autism and early detection.

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