Autism: Early Diagnosis for Early Treatment
One of the most boggling characteristics of autism is its difficulty to diagnose. A medical test doesn't exist, and thus parents, physicians, and psychologists tend to monitor developmental milestones. Some early signs that need to be looked for include: children who pull away and don’t want to be held by parents, children who are overwhelmed by normal sounds, and babies who don’t like to be laid on their stomachs. Of course many more signs than this exist, but these are among the most common.
A new report from Yale School of Medicine, however, may completely change autism as we know it. This study suggests experts can detect deficits in social attention in infants as young as six month of age who later develop autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These results showed that autistic infants paid less attention to people and their activities than typically developing babies.
This groundbreaking information may help children with autism receive early treatment. Currently, thought the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism screening at 18 months, less than 20% of autistic children are diagnosed by age 2. In fact, half aren't diagnosed until at least age 5.
But the incidence of autism is on the rise, although researchers are uncertain whether this is because of an increasing rate of the illness or an increased ability to diagnose the illness. With the increase of autism cases, more and more families are faced with the challenge of accessing intervention programs for their toddlers. As soon as a diagnosis is made, families need accurate, up-to-date information about science-based intervention options.
Consistently, research shows that the sooner autistic children begin behavioral therapy, the better off they will be. Specifically, National Research Council recommendations for autistic children are:
- at least 25 hours per week of intensive behavioral intervention
- a small number of students in ratio to teachers and
- parent involvement in the classroom
Each Child Is Unique
The prognosis for autism differs with each child. Physicians do know the level of therapy a person receives greatly improves his or her outlook. As such, early diagnosis can help physicians plan the best course of treatment. Some children, for instance, respond well to a gluten-free diet, while others require medication to control such symptoms as aggression, anxiety and sleep difficulty. Treatment is always individualized to provide the best results.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 1 in 88 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. It is today the fastest-growing developmental disability with a 1.148 percent growth rate. As a whole, autism presents a $60 billion annual cost to the nation, but the cost of lifelong care can be reduced by nearly 66 percent with early diagnosis and intervention.