Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) are a group of complex diagnoses with manifestation of behavioural symptoms in early childhood. Sub-diagnoses include: intellectual disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). ASD and FASD are two distinct disorders when using the criteria as defined by the DSM-5, however the behavioural phenotypes are very similar. The result of being labelled with one of these two diagnoses has significant outcomes on health and these are influenced by culture and stigma, treatment options, the justice systems, education and employment opportunities – one behavioural phenotype, two diagnoses and radically differing health outcomes. Obtaining the status of health requires navigation of complex systems that requires navigation between multiple personal, environmental, societal and governmental factors – however this may not be obtainable simply by the initial labelling of phenotype. As a Wall Scholar, Prof. Richardson’s research seeks to explore the impact of diagnosing in creating disease states that do not allow for health, by reviewing and comparing the natural history, evolution and creation of ASD and FASD.
Dr. Anamaria Richardson is a community based pediatrician, who works with children and families with complexity – this includes children with medical, behavioural and social complexity – and includes children with genetic disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and mental health disorders as well as families living with impacts of racism. Obtainment of health with these families requires navigation of multiple barriers. Families have taught her that there are immense systemic health inequities that currently exist in our systems. Dr. Richardson was born and grew up in South America, and previously worked as a teacher. These became formative experiences that helped shape the critical lens with which she views the world. In her work with families with neurodiversity, she has questioned the current use of labelling through diagnosis and hopes to use her year as a Wall Scholar to explore the history of two similar diagnoses, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This will allow an exploration of how social norms influence diagnoses and to question whether the process of diagnoses causes harm and prevents the obtainment of health in an inequitable manner.