Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Early Autism Identification Breakthrough? That's Funny, Conor Was Diagnosed 16 Years Ago At Age 2!

Above: Conor last month leaving school with his Mom on his 18th birthday 

Below: Conor 16 years ago on his 2nd birthday.  The next day he received 
his autism diagnosis. 

Our son Conor recently turned 18.  He has an autistic disorder diagnosis.  He was originally diagnosed the day after his 2nd birthday.   As parents we were concerned about developmental and sensory issues almost 1 year earlier and sought medical advice. At the time neither my wife Heather nor I had heard much about autism but we had observed issues with Conor's development.

Conor's brother, 19 months older, had begun speaking at a young age and was engaging in full adult level conversation by age 2.  (A retired teacher in Burlington had stopped at our table in Tim Horton's and asked how old he was. When I told her he was 2 she was astonished and said she had taught primary school for almost 50 years and had never seen anything like it.) Conor by contrast had little speech and exhibited different behaviors like pressing his face on the floor of a Burlington mall to feel the coolness, pressing his face against the plastic in the swing set in out living room for extended times,  or pointing to a circular metal floor ring around an outlet  in the floor tile in the mall and saying "circle" before he ever said mom or dad; and not using many words at all.   

Shortly after Conor's 1st birthday we were returning to live in New Brunswick where my wife sought medical attention for him.  Our family doctor referred us to a pediatrician who conducted tests over a period of several months, including referring Conor for hearing tests to determine whether hearing was or was not a factor.  Conor received his autism diagnosis the day after his 2nd birthday ... 16 years ago.  

Only now are autism researchers confirming that autism diagnoses can be made as early as 1 to 2 years? Our son's diagnosis at age 2 after almost a year of looking for answers (we had never heard much about autism we were just looking for an understanding of our son's condition) proved that possibility 16 years ago.  Great to see confirming research  but I have to wonder if such research should be hyped as breakthroughs? Maybe autism researchers should not be so dismissive of parents anecdotal information after all?

One such study is referenced on the Medical Express web site article of March 18, 2014"Autism signs can be identified earlier than formerly thought":

(Medical Xpress)—Many characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders can be identified by the age of 2 and are predictive of which children will be diagnosed with these disorders when they're older, a new study suggests.  Researchers at the University of Illinois identified a number of behavioral problems and developmental deficits – including many associated with communication and language, social interaction and self-regulation – that if present when children were 2 years old were predictive of their receiving an ASD diagnosis by age 4. "We've found that you can identify autism early – around 2 years old," said lead author Laurie M. Jeans, who conducted the study as a graduate student at Illinois. "Different specialists who work with children with ASD are each focused on specific problems, but this research gathers all those pieces of information together and provides a much bigger picture."


Shannon said...

It's odd that this is being labeled as new information. When my son was diagnosed the first time at age 2 (long, complicated story), my husband and I were told that early diagnosis was the key to getting him started on treatments and speech therapy. Our daughter was diagnosed shortly thereafter at about age three.

How can this be presented as new, when we've been told this same thing all along?

Anonymous said...


Early autism diagnosis still needs a concerned parent to explain to their child's doctor that they have concerns about behaviour. Children can still go many years without a diagnosis even when visiting their doctor on an annual basis. We can consider early autism diagnosis as a breakthrough if doctors include this as part of their screening process during annual visits.

Anonymous said...

This is so, so old - but maybe the all-powerful professionals will finally hear it. I was teaching developmental psych, my son was 8 months, and there were red flags. However, he was not officially diagnosed until he was 3 1/2. It is remarkable how much time is blown while the establishment plays games... and, back then, would continue to dither by saying early intervention is only valid if done early!

cam said...

Medical professionals need an upgrade in recognizing symptoms in my opinion. Our relatively young GP dismissed our concerns until our daughter summarily threw a tantrum so loud as to wake the dead and bang her head against his concrete floor so hard it raised a welt. Not the first time for us but obviously was for him. We were referred immediately. He got an unfortunate education that day I feel but not particularly confidence inspiring for us as new parents especially with a severely Autistic young girl on our hands.