Finding out your child may have the markers for Autism or any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders can be like a punch in the gut for parents. No one wants their child to struggle. Thankfully as the prevalence of autism has made front page news, the flurry of research has increased greatly. Some of the latest studies show the benefits of earlier diagnosis on treatment and outcomes for children deemed to be on the spectrum.
Diagnosis for autism or autism spectrum disorders is usually done around age three. Dr. Rebecca Landa, a speech-language pathologist of the Kennedy Krieger Institute believes delays in communication, social skills and motor skills can be recognized as early as 14 months. If a diagnosis can be made earlier, when the child’s brain is more malleable and still developing circuitry, treatment can begin with increased positive outcomes. (Special Needs Resources) She has put forth a list of ten symptoms that every parent should be aware of during the first six to twelve months of a child’s life. She suggests taking action immediately and inform your pediatrician if you notice any of the following characteristics:
- Rarely smiles when approached by caregiver
- Rarely tries to imitate sounds or movements of others
- Delayed or infrequent babbling
- Does not respond to their name with increased consistency
- Does not gesture to communicate by 10 months
- Poor eye contact
- Seeks your attention infrequently
- Repeatedly stiffens arms, legs or displays unusual body movements
- Does not reach up toward you when you reach to pick them up
- Delays in motor development
In addition to Landa’s research, Dr. Alan Evans of McGill University in Montreal is working to develop “at risk” biomarkers for autism. He believes abnormal development may be detected in brain scans as early as 6 months, even before other signs are noted. Evans is working to identify differences in the wiring of infants in those children who eventually develop autism. His study is detecting new clues for early diagnosis.
These latest studies and progress in research will help with early diagnosis. Research has shown that early intervention can improve a child’s overall development. Children who receive autism-appropriate education and support at key developmental stages are more likely to gain essential social skills and react better in society. In short, early detection can provide an autistic child with the potential for a better quality of life.