Neurodiversity is defined as “the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.” This is a simplistic definition for a widely varying range of disorders, many of which cannot be diagnosed properly without a genetic evaluation.
The UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute’s Neurodiversity Clinic understands the need for a complete molecular/genetic diagnosis in treating those with conditions like autism, dyspraxia (a neurologically based physical disorder) and dyslexia. Many patients with these conditions also have co-occurring disorders such as cancers, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal diseases that may not manifest until adulthood. Proper management of those conditions early on is necessary to improve their behavioral outcomes.
Another reason to attempt to arrive at a proper diagnosis is the impact it may have on treatment selections. Knowing the genes involved can sometimes guide treatment for their psychiatric comorbidities. For instance, many disorders may have a subtle mitochondrial impairment that can be made worse with some medications. Some patients will need metabolic support directed at the mitochondria, the parts of a cell that act like a digestive system which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules for the cell.
It can also help the family of a patient to be able put a name on their loved one’s condition. A proper genetic workup can identify a de novo mutations and our clinicians can help the family understand that the gene arose in the patient and was not “given” to them by either parent.
Patients in the Neurodiversity Clinic are currently being seen in the Psychiatric Research Institute’s Walker Family Clinic and the UAMS Health North Street Clinic in Fayetteville. The Psychiatric Research Institute clinic is led by Jeff Clothier, M.D., and Kent McKelvey, M.D. The clinics serve primarily as a consultation service. Referrals to these clinics should be made to Tami Hula at TLHula@uams.edu and should include any available medical records.