Detecting Autism Early
Autism spectrum disorder is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties and repetitive patterns of behavior. The disorder’s severity ranges from classic autism to Asperger’s syndrome, a milder form.
An estimated 1.5 children in the United States alone — and tens of millions worldwide — are affected by Autism, according to Autism Speaks, the U.S.’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Government numbers suggest the prevalence rate of autism is increasing at 10 to 17 percent annually, but no one knows why.
Just as the symptoms and increasing numbers vary, so do the ways to obtain a diagnosis. Medical professionals will observe behavior and perform psychological testing before a child ever receives a diagnosis.
While the cause of Autism remains unknown, experts do know one thing for certain: the sooner a child is diagnosed, the more likely the child will benefit from the current therapies available.
From birth to at least 36 months of age, Autism Speaks suggests that every child be screened during routine well visits with his or her pediatrician for developmental milestones. Autism research has discovered that children as young as 1 year can show signs of autism. What matters most is that parents are aware of the signs, thus allowing families to seek help immediately.
Autism Speaks provides a checklist of “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” that indicate if a child should be evaluated. If your child shows any of these signs, it is advised that you immediately seek an evaluation:
• 6 months old or after: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions
• 9 months old or after: No backand-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
• 12 months old: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving
• 16 months old: No words
• 24 months old: No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating)
• Any age: Any loss of speech, social skills or babbling
For more information on detecting autism early, visit Autism Speaks at www.autismspeaks.org.
— Brian Nettles is an attorney with Nettles Law Firm in Henderson, Nevada.