Icelanders Ahead Of US In Autism Treatment

Icelanders Ahead Of US In Autism Treatment

Published August 4, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Jonathan Hillyer

An Icelandic child neurologist working in Florida says Iceland is “a few steps ahead” when it comes to the treatment of autism in children.

In an interview with Morgunblaðið, child neurologist Lauf­ey Ýr Sig­urðardótt­ir talks about her experiences working at the Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida. Moving to the state from Iceland two years ago, she began work as a childhood epilepsy specialist. Recently, the hospital has received additional funding for the care and treatment of children with autism. This is where her work experience at Iceland’s State Diagnostic and Counselling Centre came into play.

“When I arrived, I figured out quickly that the service for children with autism in the Orlando area was not as far along as I expected,” she said. “I saw that Icelanders were a few steps ahead of Floridians where this was concerned.”

Laufey says she immediately set to work trying to improve the system, though she emphasised that the goal here was not to “cure” autism.

“The goal of diagnosis and treatment is not to cure autism as such,” she said. “Autism is incredibly beautiful in many ways. Here, we hope to help them assimilate into society as best as possible.”

To do this, Laufey places emphasis on two main points: early detection of autistic symptoms (in this case, before the age of 6) and intensive cognitive therapy, with cumulative sessions taking some 30 to 40 hours a week.

Laufey says Icelanders can be proud of how far they have come in the field of autism treatment, albeit not without some caveats.

“In some ways, Icelanders don’t know how good they have it,” she said. “What we should not accept, though, is the waiting list for young children [with autism]. This is actually ‘child-harmful’, if you could put it that way.”

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