Autism Center Established for Children, Young Adults

Louis Kraus, MD

Louis Kraus, MD

The Chicago region’s first comprehensive center serving patients from childhood into young adulthood with autism spectrum disorders has been established at Rush University Medical Center.

The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services Program is building assessment, treatment, residential care and research programs to serve families across the lifespan of an individual with autism. A gift from the Boler family’s foundation provided funding for the center to be established. The program will be integrated with the existing Autism Resource Center at Rush to provide families with long-term coordinated care, and a comprehensive clearinghouse of resources.

“Research has demonstrated the power of targeted interventions to improve educational performance, socialization, language skills and sensory integration issues in people with autism,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. “In Chicago, no single site offers this full range of services, creating financial and time-related burdens on families as well as limiting the degree of coordination and communication among care providers.”

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No Pill, Non-Invasive Therapy Effective for Depression

Depression is a debilitating illness, and for at least one third of individuals suffering from depression, existing medications and treatment options are frequently ineffective or intolerable due to side effects. 

Recently, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive, non-drug therapy approved by the FDA,  has been providing hope to patients suffering from major depression.  The new, no-pill therapy has been proven to be an effective antidepressant treatment in acute cases, but what about the long-term benefits of TMS ? Continue reading

Shock Therapy: Not What Some May Think It Is

Mention electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and what comes to mind is that horrific scene from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” where actor Jack Nicholson is strapped down against his will and violently convulsing.

That image is all wrong, according to Carol Kivler, who has suffered several acute bouts of major depression since 1990 that were resistant to drug therapy.  She says that ECT, commonly called shock therapy, was her “ladder out of the depression pit,” and she has been giving talks around the country to de-mystify and de-stigmatize both the procedure and mental illness in general.  She was the featured speaker at Grand Rounds in Rush’s Department of Psychiatry this week.

Psychiatrist Dr. Thanh Thai says that ECT is a legitimate therapy, done under anesthesia with muscle relaxants and long used as a treatment for severe depression — not for the everyday blues we all experience, but for cases so severe that patients can’t function at all, can’t even rise out of bed in the morning.  Extensive research has proved ECT’s effectiveness in such cases.  There can be side effects, he cautions, as there are with any medical treatment, the most severe of which is long-term memory loss. 

And that scene in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”?  The film was made in 1975, but Thai says it depicted ECT as practiced way back in the 1930s.

Internet Use Among Teens Linked to Depression

Teens who are addicted to the Internet are at risk of developing depression, according to a new study published online by the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study by researchers in Australia and China found the risk of depression for those who used the Internet pathologically was about two and a half times that of those who did not.

Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, notes there is a link between Internet use and depression in teens, but he cautions that this study does not address the cause and effect.

“Spending a lot of time on the Internet may not be causing the depression. Kids who spend a lot of time online may do so because they have social and emotional difficulties and they use the Internet to avoid social contact,” said Kraus.

According to Kraus, continued heavy online use will create additional difficulties for at-risk kids. He recommends parents should intervene if they notice their children spending too much time on the computer, especially if the computer use is in lieu of spending time with family and social involvement or if grades are falling.

“Sometimes simply setting limits is sufficient. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of screen time, which includes TV, Internet and video games. However, as kids get older setting limits may become more difficult, especially if parents are not aware of other difficulties that kids may have, such as depression and anxiety,” said Kraus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has additional information available on setting Internet rules for your children.

For more information on teenage depression, visit the Rush Web site.

Public Spanking–When Do You Intervene?

Dr. Paul Holinger

Who hasn’t been on a plane, a bus, in a restaurant or the grocery store and seen frustrated parents, driven to distraction by their kids’ antsy behavior, haul off and slap their kids on the face or the fanny?  Dr. Paul Holinger, a child psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center, cringes when he hears the sound of that slap.  We all move on and say nothing, but Holinger has developed an on-the-spot response that he calls a three-step “mini-therapy.”   As he explains in an article in the current issue of the Journal of American Psychiatry, in the section called Introspections, he forms an alliance with the parent(s), provides some practical help for the moment, and finally, chats about what has happened and offers some tools for the future.  Read his article to see how it’s done.