Author: Charles A. Cowan, MD

Let’s Celebrate a Huge Public Health Accomplishment

vaccineThis past weekend, catching up on emails as I do, I came across a blog from Seattle Mama Doc. All that showed from my inbox was a partial subject line: “The Link Between Vaccines and …”. Now, we have worked with Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson on several occasions and know her as a pro-vaccinator— so needless to say my curiosity was piqued. What are vaccines linked to? What breaking news did I miss? Eagerly, I followed the link.  Read full post »

Autism and GI Issues

Recently we received a question from one of our readers about a large study regarding children with autism and Gastrointestinal (GI) Issues. Please see what our Dr. Charles Cowan had to say:

Thanks for your post pointing out this most interesting and important recent study. This UC Davis/MIND Institute study is the largest study to date on gastrointestinal (GI) issues in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). For those of you who haven’t heard of this study or read it, in brief summary the authors used data from CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetic and the Environment) database. This is a very large study which enrolled 1,513 participants from 2003-2011. Most participants completed a questionnaire about GI symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and food intolerance to compare the prevalence of these symptoms between children diagnosed with ASD, non-autism Developmental Delay (non-ASD DD) and Typical Development (TD). Read full post »

The State of Autism in 2013

boy taking pictureIt is April, Autism Awareness month. I’m certainly pleased that this month is designated as such and it serves as a convenient time for me to reflect on the past year and try to look forward to the coming one.

I’ve entitled this blog post the “State of Autism” as this is my humble attempt to review what I feel are important issues related to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in our state, Washington and the country. This is my 3rd time trying to do this and each time I’ve come away with the feeling that I barely scratched the surface of important things to discuss. What I have chosen to discuss are my choices, acknowledging that by doing such I’m leaving huge important areas entirely left untouched. That said, I have decided to discuss issues related to diagnosis, epidemiology, new science, local issues in our state, and treatment. Read full post »

1 in 50 Is and Is Not Really News…

school busJust this week, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published in one of its publications, the National Health Statistics Report, the latest information on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Once again as we’ve been used to seeing over the past ten years the prevalence has apparently risen again. Just one year ago, the CDC published data widely reported in the press that the prevalence of ASDs in the US was 1:88, equal to approximately 1.13%. This report substantially increases that number to about 1:50 or 2% of the population. What are we to make of these ever apparently increasing prevalence numbers? Read full post »

New Guidelines for Birth to Three Services in Washington State

The Washington State Department of Early Learning recently released new guidelines that are designed to provide direction for birth to three centers to better support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Washington State. Importantly, the guidelines also include children who are suspected of having ASD not just those with a formal diagnosis. This is critical because many children have not been eligible for autism-specific services until they have a formal diagnosis and the wait list at specialty diagnostic clinics is often months long. These guidelines are a result of a collaborative effort by the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers at the Department of Early Learning and the Haring Center for Applied Research and Training in Education at the University of Washington. Read full post »

Why the Sharp Rise in Autism Rates?

A while back The Autism Blog received a comment from someone who suggested that the sharp rise in autism rates is a direct result of people wanting to make money. The person who posted this comment seemed quite frustrated by the apparent increase in the number of people being diagnosed with autism. I can thoroughly identify with and appreciate his or her frustration.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the issue. There is no doubt that the diagnosis of autism has increased tremendously in the past 15 years. And, are there undoubtedly people who have made money from many parents confused, frustrated and angry about this condition. That makes me sad and a bit angry as well. Nevertheless, to tarnish the entire professional community is unfair and inaccurate.  Read full post »

A Day in the Life- with Charles Cowan, MD

I’ve been spending time reading the blog posts of my friend and colleague Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, also known as Seattle Mama Doc. Wendy Sue is a formidable blogger. Frankly I’m jealous as I don’t know how she manages to write so much, so well and with such heart and humor. What I find so engaging about her posts is how personal and real they seem to me. She’s frequently describing situations in terms of her life as a pediatrician and a mother. The Autism Blog that we at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center have been producing is a group effort. Many of us have written blogs about issues we want to share with the general public, but sometimes our blog seems to lack the personal touch that we all feel as members of the Center. Thinking that, here is my contribution on a more personal note.  Read full post »

What Can Basic Science Teach Us About Autism?

I recently read a fascinating book, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.  This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction is an extraordinary account starting with a discussion of the history of cancer from ancient times and rapidly moving to a discussion of the history of leukemia dating from the mid-19th century. The tale then moves rapidly to review the work of the “father of chemotherapy”, Sydney Farber, in the early and late 1940s.

This book is amazing because it is a serious science and medical history, yet it is engaging, even thrilling to read. Needless to say as a physician, I’m fascinated with medicine and science and as a former college history major, I love what history can teach us that we can apply today. If you take the time to read this, you’ll learn how a complex human disorder that potentially can affect us all has been understood piece by piece and to an extraordinary extent has been successfully treated, and in some cases, even “cured”. Read full post »

Choosing a Biomedical Therapy and Autism

Many times when families see me, they ask what therapies they should try for their child. Unfortunately, there is no absolutely prescribed therapy or set of therapies for any child on the autism spectrum. Wouldn’t it be great if an easy roadmap to therapy existed in the dizzying world of therapy for children with autism? Wouldn’t it be great if the answers for how to treat a child (or adult) with autism were as easy as using an antibiotic for strep throat? Unfortunately children with autism spectrum disorders are so varied and their symptoms and problems are so diverse that choosing a single or many therapies is daunting.  Read full post »

Insights Into Autism Prevalence from Two Recent Studies

What’s in a number? 

Why does it seem so hard to figure out how many people have autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)? Those of us who have followed the various studies over the past 20 years are amazed and sometimes quite confused by the rising prevalence rates. Is there a worsening “epidemic” of autism cases? Are our children getting sicker and sicker? Two studies recently published may provide some clues to this puzzling problem. Before reviewing these new studies, a few words are in order about the dilemmas inherent in the strategies used for counting people with autism. Read full post »