Many ASD parents have struggled in the past to get their children’s pediatrician to listen to their concerns, let alone getting them tested. If the pediatrician didn’t brush you off with the label of you either being crazy or overprotective, then you had another mountain to climb … finding a place where your child could be tested.
When I had concerns about my son, naturally no one listed or helped. I was alone with this fear of the unknown, and I had to tackle it by myself. I remember how difficult it was to find a place where Amin could be tested, and the difficult concept of not having an answer for two years, because that was the waiting period to get tested 5 1/2 years ago. It was purely God’s blessing that I found an independent Developmental Pediatrician who was able to see him within 3 wks. The price for testing was high, but it was certainly negligible compared to wasting years to get answers and interventions.
It is wonderful to read articles like this one below, and to know and see that services are now readily available, and recommended at a very young age. There is no longer an excuse not to get answers. Early detection brings early intervention, and that consequently leads to a higher success rate in either improving, or in some cases even curing, the child’s condition.
By Perry McCarney
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all 18- and 24-month-olds be screened for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). While previously it has been difficult to diagnose ASDs in children under three years of age, recently developed screening tests have become more capable of doing so. Research on treating ASDs has shown that children are most responsive to early intervention. So the earlier ASDs are detected, the earlier treatment can begin and the better off our children will be.
Autism spectrum disorders include autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, Rett’s disorder, pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and childhood disintegrative disorder. Early detection of ASDs is more dependent on the absence of some behaviors than the presence of abnormal behaviors. Significant research has been done over the last 10 to 15 years to improve early diagnosis. This has led to the development of screening tests with varying degrees of effectiveness, although they are still more accurate the older the child.
One such method is Autism Detection in Early Childhood (ADEC), developed by psychologist Associate Professor Robyn Young and her team at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. A Spanish version is being developed for national screening in Mexico and a Chinese version for Malaysia and China. It shows promise at detecting ASDs in children aged 18 to 24 months of age.
Another is the Developmental Behavior Checklist Early Screen based on the DBC used for screening children aged from 4 to 18 years. The DBC Early Screen shows promise for detecting ASDs in infants and toddlers between 18 and 48 months.
Having such screening tests done on our infants may be expensive in many parts of the world. Many parents may struggle to find the finances, so knowing if doing so may be needed is beneficial. Some ASDs appear to have a genetical basis, so any child with older siblings already diagnosed with an ASD should be tested.
Signs that an infant may have an ASD include:
* Rapid increase in head circumference. The heads of some infants later diagnosed with an ASD grow more rapidly than non-ASD infants.
* Lack of eye contact. Most babies by 6 months of age should be focusing on parents when they hover over them or pick them up.
* Response to name. Most infants should be responding to their name by 12 months of age.
* Affective responsiveness or social smiling. Most infants should be smiling at their bonded care-giver by the time they are 12 months old.
* Pre-linguistic verbalizations. While ASD babies may cry as much as others, those delightful goo-goos and ga-gas may be less common. A reduction in such articulations from an earlier abundance is also indicative.
If our baby or infant displays any of the above signs, we would be well advised to have them tested at 18 months or as soon as possible after that. The earlier children start receiving help and treatment, the higher their level of functionality within society will be.
Crane, J. & Winsler, A. (2008) Early Autism Detection: Implications for Pediatric Practice and Public Policy. Journal of Disability Policy Studies 18(4): p245-253.
Landa, R. & Garrett-Mayer, E. (2006) Development in infants with autism spectrum disorders: a prospective study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines 47(6): p629-638.
Zwaigenbaum, L., Bryson, S., Lord, C., Rogers, S., Carter, A., Carver, L. et al. (2009) Clinical assessment and management of toddlers with suspected autism spectrum disorder: insights from studies of high-risk infants. Pediatrics 123(5): p1383-1391
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