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Calls to Action

Autism Treatment EMPACT's the Medical Community

October 08, 2007


The Autism Treatment Network (ATN) held its first annual Emerging Medical Practices in Autism Care & Treatment (EMPACT) Conference in Chicago, September 12-14, 2005. This was a comprehensive conference on medical issues associated with the disorder and the current evidence that


these issues play a significant role in the behavior and life of those with autism.

The conference brought together over 100 physicians and leading autism specialists from across the U. S. and Canada, including representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It focused on current medical information and treatment practices in order to begin a broader understanding of the medical issues faced by individuals with autism and define the goal of comprehensive care for everyone that struggles with the disorder.

Specific areas addressed in the conference were: evaluation procedures; gastrointestinal, metabolic, psychiatric co-morbidity, and psychopharmacology issues; and sleep disorder. Leading physicians associated with the ATN effort as well as those with long experience in the autism field made presentations. Additionally, breakout sessions were conducted to expand the dialogue with those in attendance.

Tom Insel, Director of the NIMH, made the dinner presentation, "Autism: The Public Health Challenge," and indicated that there is a greater focus on medical intervention research by NIMH for autism. Insel stated that there are as many as 1 million individuals within the autism spectrum, and the number is increasing while the funding for research and treatment remains substantially less than other childhood diseases.

Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is 1 in 166 births. Type 1 Diabetes is 1 in 400, Childhood Cancer is 1 in 2000, and Cystic Fibrosis is 1 in 3500. Yet private and National Institutes of Health funding for ASDs is approximately $10 million, while attributable IDEA costs for autism is $1.4 billion per year. The NIMH is working toward greater cooperation among families, clinicians and scientists in order to establish better autism care and treatment.

The ATN was formed to establish an evidence-based medical treatment protocol for physicians to use in recognizing the warning signs that may require medical treatment, in addition to behavioral and educational approaches. The ATN is a coalition of physicians from leading medical centers including Mass General Hospital for Children, Baylor College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Columbia University Medical Center, Oregon Health & Science University, and the University of Washington Medical Center. For more information, please visit the ATN page in our Resources and Programs area of the Web site.