Doctor to give talk on autism

HANCOCK – Many parents of autistic children in the Copper Country often take their children to Marquette General Hospital for more in-depth diagnoses, and the director of the clinic they go to will give a talk in Hancock next week.

Jonathan Packham, who is a pediatric occupational therapist at Portage Health and a member of the board of directors of Copper Country Autism Awareness support group, said Dr. Michael Nidiffer who runs the Marquette General Developmental Speciality Clinic, will talk about early diagnosis and treatment of autism.

The presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. March 27 in the Distant Learning room at the Copper Country Intermediate School District building at 809 Hecla St. in Hancock.

There is no fee to attend the presentation, and registration is not required, Peckham said. After the talk, Nidiffer will take questions, but he won’t be diagnosing patients.

“It’s totally informational,” Peckham said.

Although most pediatricians will look for symptoms of autism when they examine a child, Peckham said it may be difficult to spot some symptoms during a relatively short office visit.

“There’s a lot of complicated issues going on,” he said.

Peckham said he estimates there are 65 to 70 children in the CCISD who are autistic, which is about average for a community this size.

“It isn’t really any more than would be in a large city,” he said.

Although there are degrees of autism, Peckham said generally it can be described with infants and very young children as a difficulty with attachments to parents. As autistic children get older, they have significant deficits with communication and engagement with other people.

Because many parents take their children to Marquette see Nidiffer, Peckham said it’s important he’s coming to Hancock to speak.