Autism researchers and experts agree that treating children for autism is especially important when they are aged 3 years and younger. However, diagnosis for these younger ages tend to be tough. In fact, according to new government data, children are well past their fourth birthday by the time they receive their diagnosis. It tends to take months or even years for doctors to confirm a formal diagnosis or any suspicions parents and teachers may have. The U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced last month that the rate of autism for 8 year olds more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, and most of the children were not diagnosed until after the age of 4.
Right now the average age of diagnosis is around 4 ½ years old, but researchers say that diagnoses can reliably be made around the age of 2. So they are currently working on new methods for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder in the earliest possible time frame. Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, chairman of the Child Study Center at Yale University and chief of child psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, also supports the idea that the early intervention can have a profound impact on the rest of a child’s life, he explains that it’s just a matter of how early one can really determine a child is autistic and what the real symptoms are in determining an early diagnosis.
Autism diagnosis is especially tricky since it includes a collection of symptoms that affect your child’s behavior such as their social skills and ability to communicate rather than something to be measured on a scale. “I have seen a handful of kids who before age 3 looked like they had autism; after 5 they looked normal,” Dr. Volkmar says. Some researchers at Harvard University used a 55-gene sample to try to predict autism, but they were correct less than 70 percent of the time and even less so for diagnosis among girls. With autism being linked to over 500 genes so far, simple genetic tests have proven to be not very reliable or accurate.
There are countless studies coming out this year alone that have found links to brain development in the prenatal environment that can be related to autism, eye gazing behaviors in babies between 2-6 months, infants having good or bad head control, and even so much as linking the sound of a baby’s cry to an autism diagnosis, according to research from clinical psychologist Stephen Sheinkopf.
Some parents are worried about making such early diagnoses especially in infancy. Shannon Knall was one such parent, but after having one child on the autism spectrum diagnosed a little before the age of three admits that she feels they “lost some time and opportunities for early intervention when we were waiting around to get into a diagnostician.” And this is a sentiment that seems to be widely shared by parents and caregivers alike who have children with asd.
Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices offers Early Intervention from birth to age 3, Special Education Itinerant Teachers for ages 3 to 5, and center-based school programs for ages 3 to 11. We also offer evaluations, related support services and Medicaid waiver coordination. We realize the importance of early intervention in helping these children to lead more successful lives and reach out to families across all five boroughs. If you have any questions or concerns about your child potentially being on the asd spectrum please do not hesitate to reach out!
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