GHS hosts head of American Academy of Pediatrics at behavioral conference

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Dr. James Perrin, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. James Perrin, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics

More than 150 physicians, nonprofit representatives and others who work with children gathered on the Greenville Hospital System campus last week to learn about ways to help treat children facing challenges from autism to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Dr. Desmond Kelly, committee chair and medical director of the Greenville Children's Hospital Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, said the Nurturing Developing Minds conference offers a "blend of research and practical applications" for professionals working with children with developmental disorders.
Attended by doctors, psychologists, social workers, nonprofit representatives and educators, the event allowed them to gain new information and collaborate, Kelly said. "Everyone appreciated being able to hear up-to-the-minute information from leaders and from each other."
The keynote speaker for the day was one of those leaders: Dr. James Perrin, director of general pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital and president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Perrin said the conference offered an important opportunity to update clinicians and others on new treatments and new ways of thinking about children with a complex disorder like autism.
"One thing we're all working on recognizing is that they may have heart disease or autism, but they're kids first," he said. "That means that we need to treat them like children and realize that they have any of the other problems that children develop ... like ear infections and colds."
Physicians, psychologists, nurses and specialized therapists can work together to create a team approach to treating children with complex disorders, he said. And changes have come in treatment. Conditions like constipation and sleep disorders in children with autism – Perrin's focus – require very specific strategies, he said.
"Just six or seven years ago, moms and dads were told that kids with autism don't sleep right – that's just the way it is, live with it. Now we know that's not always true. They may have higher rates of sleep disorders than other children, but just like sleep disorders in other children, we have ways of treating those, so we do treat them," he said.
Perrin said bringing people together for this event provides support and strategy sharing for clinicians. "They realize they're not lone rangers working in very difficult situations back in their hometowns."
Nurturing collaboration between local practitioners and centers like Kelly's also makes local doctors more comfortable in treating a young patient with autism or other diagnosis, Perrin said. "If they feel like there's no one to back them up, they're going to be much more reluctant to take on a patient like this."
Kelly added that his children's hospital division at GHS wants to go beyond seeing patients, to offer educational opportunities and support for those who work with these children.