April 4, 2014

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder.

Jocelyn Burum, PsyD, joined the Family Resource Center in late 2013 to treat childhood behavioral and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and ADHD. But Burum's main passion is autism.

Burum completed her undergraduate work at Notre Dame, studying psychology and theater. She has an M.A. in counseling psychology from Pacific University, and she completed her PsyD at Marshall in 2012. Burum then had a postdoctoral fellowship at the Tulsa Center for Child Psychology in Oklahoma.

Burum said autism presents itself in three main areas: social skills, communication skills and stereotyped or repetitive behaviors like hand flapping.

Autism Spectrum Disorders are usually diagnosed beginning at age 2, and there is a wide range of severity.

"Some kids might blend in really well, but perhaps have an interest in one specific subject (like vacuum cleaners) and know everything there is to know about it," Burum said.

In more severe cases of autism, children can be completely non-verbal and be content keeping to themselves with very limited social interaction.

Autism is diagnosed using a test called the Autism Diagnostic and Observation Schedule (A-DOS 2). Clinicians also interview parents and caregivers and perform other adaptive ratings.

"We want to rule out all other possibilities before making an autism diagnosis, like hearing problems or other behavioral disorders," she said.

The cause of autism is unclear, but there is a hereditary component, and some studies have linked autism to advanced maternal age.

Those with autism typically struggle with transitions and change and benefit from a very structured environment and routine.

While there is no cure for autism, there are several therapies and treatments that can help patients better function. Speech and occupational therapies are often combined with specialized classroom plans for school (individualized education plans), and sometimes even medication is prescribed to treat secondary symptoms of autism, like anxiety.

There are a few resources in the community for autism treatment and support, like the Children's Therapy Clinic in Cross Lanes and the Autism Training Center in Huntington, but Burum said there is a need for more services for children and families dealing with autism.

"There is still a lot that we don't know. Rates are on the rise, largely because we are more aware and better able to diagnose autism."

Burum is at the Family Resource Center Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Patients can call the center at (304) 388-2545 or be referred by another physician for testing or therapy.

To learn more about autism, visit our Health Information Center.

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