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Free youth autism screenings at hospital

By Staff | Nov 3, 2009

Local toddlers can get a free autism screening Friday outside of Cape Coral Hospital.
The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and Ronald McDonald House Charities are providing the screenings to toddlers between 18 months and 36 months.
Autism is more prevalent today than ever before. Recent statistics point out that 1 in every 150 children will be diagnosed with some sort of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
It is more common than cases of childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.
The screenings, to be conducted from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., will help parents find out whether their children need special services to deal with autism.
“We are focusing on early detection and that is when children are starting to show the signs,” said Jami Hallman, a nurse practitioner at The Children’s Hospital.
In the past, children would show signs of autism at a young age but the symptoms often went unnoticed, she said. Its also been shown to occur more in boys than girls.
Children with language delays and socialization problems and those who are not interested in being social could be exhibiting signs of the disorder, yet not every child with the characteristics is autistic.
Screenings will be done in the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a bus that will be in the parking lot of Cape Coral Hospital. Later the bus will travel to Fort Myers and Estero.
Screenings last approximately 30 minutes, but parents will not leave Friday knowing whether their child is autistic.
“We can recognize some of the red flags in the child,” said Hallman. “A lot of times the kids will come and be shy, so we have to go by what the parents tell us.”
If a child exhibits signs, Hallman or nurse practitioner Sherri Campbell will refer the child to a neurologist or mental health professional who can make an official diagnosis.
Clinicians inside the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile will use M-CHAT, a checklist for autism in children, along with the Denver Developmental Screening Tool to assess children.
Officials are asking people to schedule a screening by calling 985-3608.