One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching.Children with autism will have symptoms from a very young age, beginning before the age of three. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. Other children appear to develop normally until 18–24 months, then either stop gaining new skills or lose some they’ve already developed. While every child develops differently, we also know that early treatment improves outcomes, often dramatically.
www.AutismSpeaks.org and www.MyAutism.org identifies the following “red flags” that may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking for an evaluation:
Current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines call for screening all toddlers at 18 and 24 months, the age at which existing screening methods are best able to identify children with autism. More recently developed psychological testing now allows for detection as early as 12 months of age. Early detection of autism allows for early intervention with behavior therapies that can improve long-term outcomes.
Pierce K, Carter C, Weinfeld M, et al. Detecting, Studying, and Treating Autism Early: The One-Year Well-Baby Check-Up Approach. Journal of Pediatrics.
A clinical psychologist who specializes in ASD can assist in early identification of risk as well as be an essential part of a child’s treatment team. A clinical psychologist can help with:
Research has shown that behavioral interventions are effective for improving language, cognitive abilities, adaptive behavior, and social skills, and reducing anxiety and aggression. Brief, targeted behavioral interventions including parent-delivered practices can greatly improve social communication in toddlers and young children. Grade-schoolers and adolescents with ASD demonstrate enhancement of social skills among peers through group social skills programs. Cognitive behavioral therapy combined with social skills training is most effective for high functioning individuals, while systematic desensitization is more effective for those with significant intellectual challenges.
Dawson, G., Burner, K. Behavioral interventions in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: A review of recent findings. Current Opinions in Pediatrics. Dec 2011;23(6):616-20.