When a parent first realizes there is something different about their child, most want answers and reassurances as soon as possible and most parents rely on the family’s pediatrician for guidance and direction.
According to the clinical reports recently published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, (all) children should be screened for autism at least twice before their second birthday. Using a quick parent and child interview, the pediatrician may recommend a follow-up screen in a month, and/or more intensive testing by a special team.
To learn more about the Lowcountry Autism Foundation, visit www.lowcountryautismfoundation.org.
However, in the recent past, a surprising number of pediatricians seemed to be reluctant to pursue early autism assessments. Some pointed to the variance in developmental rates among children and others seemed fearful of assigning a potential label to a child. Fortunately, there is a growing trend in pediatrics to be proactive in performing initial neurological screening at early well baby checks. For many reasons parents, too, may be reluctant to pursue an autism assessment.
Picking up early signs of autism spectrum disorder tends to be more challenging the younger the child. The diagnosis is further complicated since no two children with autism are exactly alike and there are no medical tests for autism spectrum disorders.
The following red flags may indicate a child is at risk for atypical development, and is in need of an immediate screening. If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate screening:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age.
Parents of children ultimately diagnosed with autism usually know something’s wrong; the sooner they know if it is autism, the better chances for the best outcome. The best long-term outcome depends on the child; higher functioning children may achieve independent living while lower functioning children may achieve minimal communication skills necessary to perform daily living functions.
The Lowcountry Autism Foundation, Inc. recommends that parents don’t give up seeking answers until they know their child’s condition.
If you'd like to know more, please e-mail Tripp Ritchie at email@example.com or visit the Lowcountry Autism Foundation's Web site at www.lowcountryautismfoundation.org.