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ESSENCE-Day 1 summary

On June 3, GNC arranged the first of two ESSENCE-days at Konferenscentrum Wallenberg in Gothenburg, under the heading ”What does the research say?”. On this education day around fifteen researchers gave lectures on ESSENCE, regarding e.g. specific diagnoses, gender, age and new treatment forms. Professor Christopher Gillberg served as moderator and started off the day’s programme by giving a presentation of the term ESSENCE (Early Symptomatic Syndromes Eliciting Neurodevelopmental Clinical Examinations). In this presentation he stressed that ESSENCE is not a diagnosis in itself, but rather an umbrella term, which encompasses a number of neuropsychiatric/neurodevelopmental conditions with onset of symptoms at a very young age, which often overlap one another and occur together. Among the diagnoses found under the ESSENCE umbrella, ADHD, SLI, DCD, IDD, ASD, TD/TS/OCD, RAD, BPS, EP/Neuromuscular disorders and PANS were mentioned. The fundamental idea of the term ESSENCE can be summarised as this: there is rarely only one problem – comorbidity is the rule and not the exception. Problems related to general development are often closely associated with other difficulties, e.g. perception/sensory ability, communication/language, activity/impulsiveness, attention/concentration, social interaction/reciprocity, mood swings, and behavioural problems. The different diagnoses share genes, environmental risk factors and clinical symptoms. However, the overlap/comorbidity is neither mirrored in research nor in health care practice, where diagnoses like ADHD and autism are usually approached as isolated entities.

Some of the many presentations that followed the introductory lectures included ones looking at ESSENCE through different aspects like epidemiology (Maj-Britt Posserud), neuropsychology (Eva Billstedt), brain imaging (Nouchine Hadjikhani) and crime (Sebastian Lundström). The ESSENCE term was related by many lecturers to specific diagnoses, such as eating disorders (Elisabet Wentz), mild intellectual developmental disorder (Elisabeth Fernell), PANDAS (Susanne Bejerot), epilepsy (Colin Reilly) and oppositional defiant disorder (Björn Kadesjö). Two of the day’s lectures covered ESSENCE in adulthood – Lena Nylander spoke about mental unhealthy in adults, while Taina Guldberg-Kjärs talked about ADHD in older people. The programme also included a presentation on new pharmacological and non-pharmacological forms of treatment in cases of ADHD (Mats Johnson) as well as one on ESSENCE-related conditions more generally (Christopher Gillberg).

ESSENCE was stressed as a public health problem, which afflicts at least 10% of schoolchildren and for many lead to major difficulties even in adulthood (e.g. failures in school, adjustment problems, bullying and social shunning, drug use, psychiatric illness, antisocial lifestyle and crime). The importance of taking parental worries seriously, of examining and following up, as well as being able to offer individually adjusted supportive measures, were all addressed and highlighted. An overarching theme among all the speakers was their advocacy for ESSENCE-clinics with ESSENCE-teams (consisting of psychologists, doctors, special pedagogues and speech and language therapists), where competence is gathered in one place and where the chain of examination, diagnosis and intervention are coordinated by one and the same entity.

By Nanna Gillberg


Page Manager: Anna Spyrou|Last update: 8/13/2014

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