Integrating paediatrics and child development:
Asperger Syndrome and the role of the
S. Wendy Roberts and Tamarah Kagan-Kushnir
The last twenty years of the twentieth century saw a huge shift in awareness and understanding of Asperger Syndrome (AS), named after the paediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger. The same two decades has also seen a major change in the role of the paediatrician in identifying and helping manage all developmental disorders, and in particular, AS.
Parents often remark that their paediatrician failed to recognize the early or milder signs of an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). In AS, when early signs are quite varied, delay in recognition can cause great anguish for parents, children, and teachers, who may perceive differences but do not understand the basis of difficult or unusual behaviour. Many have felt the paediatrician's minimizing of the problem has resulted in unnecessary waits for intervention. Paediatricians, on the other hand, have not felt that their paediatric training has enabled them to identify and manage developmental disorders in the way that community consumers have recently been demanding. Many attend update courses and work to learn about the disorders that regularly present in their offices.
Because of parental demand and paediatricians' increasing awareness of needs, the academic sub-specialty of developmental paediatrics has emerged to meet the educational, clinical and research needs within child development. In 2003, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada declared developmental paediatrics a sub-specialty area within paediatrics. Developmental paediatricians (DPs) in paediatric training programs across Canada now form the core of faculty who teach medical students and residents about developmental disorders including ASDs. DPs spend at least two years after finishing core