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Archive for April, 2010

Published in the Loudoun Independent on April 24, 2010

By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D

Founder and Director, Ashburn Psychological Services

An impressive and large scale study published in the April issue of the journal, Pediatrics, has reported that one in four parents believe that some vaccines cause autism.  While the majority of concerned parents don’t let their fears impact their decision to vaccinate, many do.  In 2008, unvaccinated children contributed to measles outbreaks across several States including, Arizona, California, Illinois, New York and Washington.  The outbreak was very concerning to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inasmuch as 140 children became ill and measles can ultimately be deadly.

The fallacy that vaccinations cause autism originated out of a poorly done 1998 British research study, which was later retracted by the medical journal.  The panel investigating the 1998 study found the author to be unethical and dishonest in his reporting, and the study is no longer accepted by the medical and scientific community.  No other research study to date has found a link between vaccinations and autism; however, anecdotal reporting abounds with the strong belief by many that environmental factors can exacerbate or even cause the condition.

Why then do 25 percent of parents today conclude that there is a link between vaccines and autism when empirical studies have not found one?  I believe the controversy results from the drastic increase in diagnoses of autism in recent years without any definitive answers to why this is.  Today, the CDC reports an autism prevalence rate of 1 in every one hundred and fifty children (or 160 per 10, 000), and more recent research findings suggest that number to be a conservative one.  Males are reportedly about four times more likely than females to receive a diagnosis of autism.

The important question to whether there is indeed an increase in the prevalence of autism or if we are just diagnosing the condition better today remains unanswered.  Autism in now understood as a disorder across a spectrum involving severity, so diagnosing is getting more accurate.  For instance, twenty years ago researchers and clinicians weren’t separating out low functioning autism from high functioning autism or mental retardation like they are today.  Impairments in functioning were understood more globally.  And, the many other developmental conditions were also not considered at the time (e.g., executive functioning disorder or sensory processing disorder).  This is not to say that environmental factors don’t play a role in autism, it’s just that nothing yet has been substantiated in the research to support that position.

Within the autism movement itself, leading advocacy groups such as Autism Speaks promote vaccinations.  Moreover, throughout the Country, and right here in Northern Virginia, most pediatricians take a very hard line on vaccinations.  Some local pediatricians will not even accept your child as a new patient if you do not adhere to their recommended vaccination regime.  In Loudoun County, there are now even minimum immunization requirements for entry into school and day care that can no longer be challenged.  Moreover, immunization requirements are now mandated by the Code of Virginia, §22.1-271.2, Loudoun County School Board Policy, §8-51, and the Virginia Department of Health.

The message here then is to vaccinate your child, as there simply is no solid evidence that should otherwise lead a parent to avoid vaccinations and risk protection from life-threatening illnesses.

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Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Novello for being recognized in the 2010 Washingtonian Magazine “Top Doctors” edition as a leading psychiatrist in the areas of child and adult psychiatry.  Dr. Novello is a nationally renowned psychiatrist and his bio is listed below for your review.  Dr.  Novello is the only psychiatrist in all of Loudoun County to receive this esteemed honor.

Joseph R. Novello, M.D., practices adult and child/adolescent psychiatry and is also a qualified expert in forensic psychiatry and has participated in a wide range of civil and criminal cases. Dr. Novello also practices and is a leading expert in the field of hypnosis. He received his M.D. from the University of Michigan and his B.A. from University of Notre Dame. He has served as the director of child and adolescent services at The Psychiatric Institute of Washington and was founder of the Gateway, a residential treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse.

Dr. Novello has authored two textbooks on psychiatry and has contributed several scientific papers to the medical literature. In addition, he has written three popular books for parents. His featured column, “You and Your Child”, appeared each week in Woman’s World magazine for many years. Dr. Novello’s most recent book, The Myth of More, is about finding happiness in life by overcoming character flaws called “lifetraps” and discovering spiritual values.

Dr. Novello has received numerous awards, including election to the American College of Psychiatrists and Fellowship in the American Psychiatric Association. He has also received a Best Doctors in America Award and the Medallion of the US Surgeon General. Georgetown University, where he is a member of the clinical faculty, has honored him with its Vicennial Award.

Dr. Novello has been a consultant to the National Naval Medical Center and the Inter-American Development Bank and has served as health issues advisor to US Senator John Warner of Virginia.

Dr. Novello is well-known to the general public through his media activities. In Washington, he has hosted his own daily radio call-in program on WMAL and his regular feature “The Family Doctor” has appeared on WJLA-TV News. Dr. Novello has also been active in the media on the national level. His syndicated radio program Healthtime has been heard daily in over 300 cities and he has often appeared on network and cable TV news programs and talk shows as well as programs such as Nightline, Good Morning America and The Today Show.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Novello, please contact our office manager, Laura Cusumano, at (703) 723-2999.

Dr. Oberschneider, Director

Ashburn Psychological Services

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Private schools in Northern Virginia typically require admissions testing as part of the application process. Ashburn Psychological Services (APS) has a team of highly credentialed and experienced psychologists who frequently test for the surrounding area private and boarding schools.

Please call our office manager, Laura Cusumano, at: (703) 723-2999. Laura will explain the procedure and schedule your child’s testing at APS with an evaluator within a few days. APS prides itself on excellent testing services and a quick turn around time for the report. APS has both weekday and weekend appointments for private school admissions testing.

The following is a listing of private and boarding schools that require individually administered admissions testing for applicants:

Alexandria Country Day School

Beauvoir School

Blue Ridge School

Browne Academy

Bullis School

Burgundy Farm School

Capitol Hill Day School

Chatham Hall School

Congressional Schools of Virginia

Edlin School

Flint Hill School

Foxcroft School

Georgetown Day School

Holton Arms School

Landon School

Langley School

Loudoun Country Day School

Madeira School

Maret School

McLean School

National Cathedral School

National Presbyterian School

Nysmith School for the Gifted

Norwood School

Oakcrest School

Pinecrest School

Potomac School

Stuart Hall School

St. Catherine’s School

St. Margaret’s School

St. Patrick’s School

St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes School

Sandy Spring Friends School

Sheridan School

Sidwell Friends School

Stone Ridge School

Wakefield School

Wakefield Country Day School at Huntley

Washington Episcopal School

Westminster School

Woodberry Forest School

The Woods Academy

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