Why is Routine Screening for Autism Recommended for Children?
Generally, children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years should regularly be screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The initial screening should be done when the child is 18 months, and again when he/she is two years. This screening is highly recommended, even if children do not show any signs of development delay. Screenings during the first 2 years of a child’s life are crucial and are suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Regular universal screenings and screenings for ASD are recommended as such pediatric checkups will often lead to an earlier diagnosis of ASD. There is growing recognition among parents that early intervention and early diagnosis can yield better outcomes for children who are on the spectrum.
Here are a few possible symptoms of autism spectrum disorder:
Delay in language
Delay in smiling
Failure to respond to his or her name
Failure to follow parent’s gaze
Failure to respond when pointing at something
These subtle but critical risk factors/signs are the most common reasons for evaluating a child for ASD. However, these are limited to children within the age group of 10 to 12 months.
For children between the age group of 12 to 15 months, symptoms of being on the spectrum are:
Failure to make eye contact
Lack of “back & forth” babble, as a means of communication
Failure to point as a means of directing attention
For children in the same age group (12 to 15 months), forming an attachment with an unusual object in place of a regular blanket or soft toy, may indicate a problem.
Parents need to be alert in noticing these symptoms. Quick and early intervention can help children who are diagnosed and their parents likewise.
While the aforementioned symptoms are rather subtle, here are a few not so subtle signs of ASD:
No babbling or pointing or any other form of communication gestures by age 12 months
No single words by 15-17 months
No two-word phrases by 22-24 months
Loss of social skills and language at any age
Loss of language and social skills is the sign of verbal regression experienced by children on the spectrum. This often occurs in children who are about 21 to 22 months.
Routine screening leads to early intervention and early treatment.
Regular screening is imperative as a definite diagnosis can be made based on the findings and/or symptoms.
A report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on the management of ASD and other related disorders calls for early intervention, even before a definite diagnosis can or has been made.
The treatment should include 25 hours a week intensive behavioral therapy. This should be done with a low student-to-teacher ratio, with parental involvement, and sufficient one-on-one time.
For more information regarding ASD screening, early intervention and developmental disorders, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.