Pediatricians should screen all children for autism twice by age 2, according to two new reports issued today by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Up until now, the group recommended screening between 18 and 24 months of age, according to this AP story. Experts say one in 150 U.S. children have the troubling developmental disorder, the article says.
Symptoms such as babies who do not babble at 9 months, do not turn when their name is called, and do not show an interest in objects pointed to by parents, are all warning signs, the group says, and should be taken seriously.
“Red Flags” that are absolute indications for immediate evaluation include: no babbling or pointing or other gesture by 12 months; no single words by 16 months; no two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months; and loss of language or social skills at any age, according to a statement from the group.
Early intervention is crucial for effective treatment, the statement says. The report strongly advises intervention as soon as an ASD diagnosis is seriously considered rather than deferring until a definitive diagnosis is made. The child should be actively engaged in intensive intervention at least 25 hours per week, 12 months per year with a low student-to-teacher ratio allowing for sufficient one-on-one time. Parents should also be included.
The authors caution that not all children who display a few of these symptoms are autistic and they said parents shouldn’t overreact to quirky behavior, the AP story says. Just because a child likes to line up toy cars or has temper tantrums “doesn’t mean you need to have concern, if they’re also interacting socially and also pretending with toys and communicating well,” said co-author Dr. Scott Myers, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician in Danville, Pa.
Another educational tool, a Web site called Autism Speaks that debuted in mid-October, offers dozens of video clips of autistic kids contrasted with unaffected children’s behavior, says the AP article. It aims to promote early diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
For very young children, therapy typically involves fun activities, such as bouncing balls back and forth or sharing toys to develop social skills; there is repeated praise for eye contact and other behavior autistic children often avoid.
That doesn’t sound so bad. From the sound of it parents, we need to be on the lookout for the warning signs and then express any concerns to our kids’ doctors. Don’t wait and hope it will go away, the experts say. Early intervention is the way to go.