Dr. Christina Madison, Founder and CEO of The Public Health Pharmacist ®, PLLC a public health consulting firm, returns to The Pharmacist’s Voice Podcast today for a different kind of an interview. April is Autism Awareness Month (or Autism Acceptance Month). Christina and I each have a son with autism, and we use our voices as advocates for our children. Christina’s son Alex turned 6 just a few days ago, and my son Kraig is 19.
Thank you for listening to episode 146 of The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast!
Bio (March 2022) Christina M. Madison, PharmD, FCCP, AAHIVP Pronouns (SHE/HER/HERS)
Christina Madison, PharmD, FCCP, AAHIVP is the Founder and CEO of The Public Health Pharmacist®, PLLC a public health consulting firm. She is a clinical pharmacist specializing in public health with a focus on infectious communicable diseases. As a past President of the Nevada Public Health Association, she has been asked to share her clinical public health and infectious disease expertise with Local, State, and International Media outlets and NGO’s. Dr. Madison has been featured in over 200+ on-air TV appearances since beginning of the pandemic related to public health. She has an intimate knowledge of the impact public health messaging, policy, and legislation can have on communities. A trusted and valued health care professional with 15 years of experience in Public Health and 18 years’ experience as a pharmacy professional. An advocate for victims of human trafficking, vulnerable populations, and the underserved; Dr. Madison is a graduate of the 2021 Las Vegas FBI Citizens Academy. She has received multiple awards and recognitions including being named 50 Most Influential Pharmacy Leaders (Top 10) by the Pharmacy Podcast Network for 2021, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Southern Nevada Chapter Women of Distinction Finalist (Health Category), Nevada State Board of Pharmacy Challenge Coin Recipient, Awarded for Exemplary Efforts During COVID-19 Pandemic Response, 2021 Greatest Medical Minds by Real Vegas Magazine, 2020 Educator Healthcare Hero by Nevada Business Magazine recognizing unsung heroes in the healthcare working on the frontline (featured in September 2020 issue), Pharmacy Times® and Parata Systems 2020 Next-Generation Pharmacist Honoree (Civic Leader Category), named one of the Top 25 Healthcare Influencers by Las Vegas Entrepreneurs Magazine in June 2020, and Pharmacy Times® “Pharmacy Hero” in May 2020 for her patient education and pharmacy advocacy during COVID19. She has also been recognized for her patient counseling skills and public health/vaccine advocacy. Dr. Madison is currently an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice with Roseman University of Health Sciences (RU), College of Pharmacy. She maintains two active clinical practices with Huntridge Family Clinic, which focuses on the LGTBQ community and is one of the largest providers of HIV prevention and gender affirming care services in the State of Nevada as well as Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada (VMSN) where she offers immunization and communicable disease care. Dr. Madison is past director of Roseman University of Health Sciences COVID-19 Vaccine Operations, Logistics, Distribution, and Administration as well as the Point of Contact for the State of Nevada for COVID vaccines. She has personally facilitated the administration of over 11,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the Southern Nevada community since January 2021. Advocating for public health and the profession of pharmacy to improve the health and wellness of vulnerable populations and the underserved is her passion and mission.
Mentioned in this episode
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWONXNCvgTJE-FE2aWbxZzA?view_as=subscriber Podcast (part of the Pharmacist Podcast Network): https://pharmacypodcast.com/podcast/public-health-pharmacist/
Autism Speaks https://www.autismspeaks.org
The Autism Society https://autismsociety.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov)
Therapeutic interventions mentioned
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- Art therapy
- Early Intervention (also known as Help Me Grow) for age 0-3 years.
- Feeding therapy (Desensitization therapy treats oral aversions)
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for Preschool through Grade 12 (US)
- Occupational Therapy (OT)
- Physical Therapy (PT)
- PLAY therapy
- Speech therapy
Terms mentioned (in addition to therapies)
- Breathing exercises
- Calming behaviors (coping behaviors, self-soothing behaviors)
- Child psychiatrist
- Child psychologist
- Developmental pediatrician
- Expressive language delay
- Gaps in development
- Inability to bond
- Limited diet
- Milestones (developmental milestones)
- Modeling behavior
- No eye contact
- Pediatric neurologist
- Person with autism (person-first language)
- Receptive language delay
- Repetitive behaviors
- Resource lists
- Sensory-integration dysfunction
- Social-emotional development
- Social skills
- Typical peer
What is autism?
Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. Autism is also known autism spectrum disorder (or ASD). There is not one autism, but a spectrum or subtypes. The exact cause is unknown, but research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella, which is Autism Spectrum Disorder. The four are
1️⃣ autistic disorder
2️⃣ childhood disintegrative disorder
3️⃣ pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
4️⃣ Asperger Syndrome
What are some features of autism?
🌟 Developmental delays can appear early. Once those delays are identified, early intervention can improve outcomes later in life for people with autism. Each person with autism has strengths and challenges. There is a range of how they think, learn, and problem-solve. Some require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
😎Some individuals on the spectrum have sensory sensitivities (sight, touch, taste, sound, smell) and medical issues. Seizure disorders and sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and attention issues sometimes accompany autism.
Statistics and insights into who is affected by autism spectrum disorder
🧩Most children are diagnosed at age 4, but it can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2. Signs usually appear by the age of 2 or 3.
🧩According to both Autism Speaks and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 44 children in the US has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to 2018 data.
🧩It affects 1 in 27 boys, and 1 in 116 girls.
🧩It is approximately 4 times more common among boys than girls.
🧩Autism spectrum disorder occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
🧩Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
🧩Early intervention makes a big difference.
🧩There is no medical detection for autism.
Highlights from the interview
Many parents struggle with their child’s identity (autism diagnosis, ADHD, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc). These struggles impact us as parents and how we feel we are parenting. We talk about our struggles in this episode so that other parents don’t feel alone.
Marginalized people are people first. Ex: people with autism. Person-first language is encouraged.
Having a stay-at-home Dad in the family
Christina’s husband is a full-time, stay-at-home Dad. When he started staying home, Alex make significant developmental progress. Going from a two-income household to a one-income household was a challenge, but the support was more valuable than the second income. She feels peace of mind. Alex’s needs are met, and he is making progress.
Is there a link between vaccines and autism?
There is no evidence of a link between autism and vaccinations. Benefits vs perceived harm need to be considered, and better messengers are needed to talk about the benefits. Outbreaks of vaccine-preventible communicable diseases were seen after Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s Vaccine-Autism Myth was published.
How to get a child evaluated for a diagnosis of autism
You will know something is wrong if your child is missing milestones, like talking or playing with others. For parents concerned that their child may have autism, start with a pediatrician, and get a referral to a developmental pediatrician, child psychiatrist or psychologist, or pediatric neurologist for an evaluation. Waiting lists can be years long. Start today. Pediatricians may also have lists of resources, like therapy providers or a dentist skilled at treating children who are on the autism spectrum.
Need an evaluation for services (not a diagnosis)?
Contact your local Early Intervention (Help Me Grow) program for kids ages 0-3 years. After age 3 years, contact your local public school. An evaluation can qualify your child for services.
When you don’t know your options, getting help can be a lonely journey. A diagnosis of autism can lead to treatment and support. Support and services for the family are also available.
Juggling a child with special needs, a career, self-care, another child, and a husband is hard to do. Christina talked about riding the “struggle bus.” Some days are harder than others, but it’s ok to ask, “How are you?” She’ll tell you!
The more we speak up and speak out, the more it becomes socially acceptable to talk about having a child with challenges. People with challenges need a place in this world and people who accept them.
Recommendations from Christina
- Know your legal rights to services once your child has a been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
- Understand what services your child qualifies for and what needs to paid for out of pocket.
- Include your child in activities with and without typical peers for social-emotional development.
- Have realistic expectations.
- Don’t let the things you can’t control steal your joy.
How has having a child with autism affected Christina’s career?
- Motivates her to take on alternative projects to earn additional income to pay for therapies.
- Motivates her to help underserved communities and individuals of color and advocate for marginalized communities. Empathy is one of her superpowers!
- Motivates her personally and professionally. She wants to spend as much time as possible with her family.
What are some of the “gifts” autism has brought you and/or your family?
- The gift of time. They spend a lot of time together.
- Lots of videos! Videos are a feedback tool for modeling behavior. They are fun to look back on too!
- Being present and in the moment.
- Her husband is home more than he would be if he and Christina were both working parents.
For anyone who is struggling, please know that
You are strong.
You are capable.
You are enough.
Use your voice. You never know who’s listening and may need to hear your message!
Thank you for being my guest on episode 146 of The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast, Dr. Christina Madison! ♥️ 🧩