Second Opinions and Autism

StarryNight_by_Van_GoghI’ve made the point in several posts about the need for second opinions.  Doctors are human, which means they aren’t perfect:




  • The amount of new material for doctors to read in their own specialty amounts to several hours every night, and many just don’t put in the time after a long day of seeing patients.
  • Like most people, doctors tend to base diagnoses in part on the symptoms the patient presents and in part on what they expect to see.  In flu season, they are more like to see patients as having the flu than to order tests for meningitis.  Teachers, car mechanics and parents do the same thing.  It’s a coping mechanism for dealing with too many choices.

I reported in a previous post about having a grandson who was diagnosed at 2 as having Asperger’s.  Almost 10 years later, a different doctor ran a CAT scan and found scar tissue from a stroke.  Once therapists starting treating him as a stroke victim, he made amazing progress in both education and social skills.  However, he lost 10 years of his childhood due to the error.

His introduction to a speech therapist with substantial experience in treating both autism and stroke victims allowed the error to be discovered.

How common are strokes in children?

It turns out that stoke is one of the top 10 causes of death in children (1).  However, many parents and doctors don’t think about stroke when a child’s behavior changes.  Strokes are particularly common among

  • Children under age 2
  • Boys
  • African American children

The strokes that are known are usually those that are fatal.  Because of misdiagnosis and the lack of universal medical screening for children in the US, we don’t know just how common non-fatal strokes are.

(The lack of universal medical screening for children is also what allows children to die from undetected heart conditions while playing sports.)

Autism can also be confused with a range of other psychological conditions (2).

A child can have an autism spectrum disorder, and a lot of people do.  However, that can also be a lazy diagnosis from a doctor who doesn’t want to dig deep enough to find the truth.

Second opinions matter!



(1) National Stroke Association.

(2) WebMD. “Other Conditions With Symptoms Similar to Autism”.

(3) International Alliance for Pediatric Stroke.

(4) Adam Kirton, MD, MSc, FRCPC, “Stroke in Children,” Child Neurology Foundation.

(5) Daniel  Tsze and Jonathan Valente, “Pediatric Stroke: a review,” Emerg Med Int. 2011; 2011: 734506.

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