Med School/Year Graduated: De La Salle College of
Years in Practice: 22
What drew you to developmental pediatrics?
My grandfather was a psychiatrist and I always had a keen interest in mental health. Developmental pediatrics was a relatively young field when I entered my residency, and I was drawn to learning about neurodevelopmental disabilities and how they affect children and their families.
Autism rates have risen 787 percent in 20 years, according to a U.K. study. At the same time, the number of developmental-behavioral specialists such as yourself – who are the front-line doctors for autism care – has stagnated in the Valley. Is that a problem?
Absolutely. There are 758 board-certified DB pediatricians in the U.S. caring for 19 million youth with developmental disabilities. Training pediatricians and NPs through grants, and having more psychologists trained in autism evaluation, may help.
Is there a way to quantify the importance of early autism intervention?
There are proven benefits in early intervention for autism including ABA [applied behavioral analysis] and speech therapy. Undiagnosed kids may struggle with communication and socioemotional growth. Without proper diagnoses, some patients may be put in special education and labeled as emotionally disabled.
Can an autism or ADHD diagnosis ever be limiting for a child?
I don’t believe so. Almost always, an early diagnosis of ASD or ADHD will be beneficial to a child’s overall well-being rather than limit their overall potential. There may be more negative consequences with the “wait and see” approach.
What are your thoughts on the trending term “neurodivergent” as a broader way to describe some of the conditions you treat?
All brains work differently, and “neurodivergent” is a non-medical term that simply means one’s brain functions differently from the “neurotypical” or average person. Neurodivergent [individuals] may have their own struggles that need support, but they also have their positive attributes and strengths. I agree with this term.
You are a yogi. How does your yoga practice affect your medical practice?
Pranayama focuses on breathing. This has helped me during stressful times. I also talk to my patients in practicing slow, controlled, deep breathing to help them when they are feeling anxious.
Your husband, Joel, is a longtime Top Doc in neurology and sleep medicine. Do your fields ever intersect clinically? Do you “talk shop” at home?
Yes, we do at times. As we all know, many patients with ADHD and autism have sleep disorders. There are also comorbid disorders such as tics and seizure disorders.
“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”
A world traveler.