Monday, October 29, 2007

Early Early Screening Urged for Autism by US Pediatricians

The American Academy of Pediatrics will be recommending that all children be screened twice for autism by age 2 to allow maximum benefit from early intervention. The AAP points out early indicators of autism such as 4-month-olds not smiling at the sound of Mom or Dad's voice, babies who don't babble at 9 months, 1-year-olds who don't point to toys, or the loss of language or social skills at any age.

Conor was diagnosed 9 1/2 years ago at age 2. At that time, in New Brunswick, age 2 was an early diagnosis age for autism and we had no idea what autism was until Conor was diagnosed, initially with PDD-NOS, and as the severity of his autism became more obvious, with Autism Disorder. The early indicators for us were his failure to smile or show any response to peek a boo and other playful interaction. He had persistent fascination with sand, sifting it for lengthy periods of time but we did not find that alarming. His failure to develop any language skills by 12-14 months (other than saying the word "circle" on one occasion) was our most serious concern and we took him to our family doctor.

Our family doctor responded with the "boys develop language later" answer but we were not convinced. Our family doctor was one of those sometimes rare professionals who actually listened to our concerns though and he referred us to a pediatrician with some background in developmental disorders and after a series of tests Conor was diagnosed.

Unfortunately for Conor ABA intervention was not readily available in New Brunswick at that time. Most of the local Autism Society efforts were half day workshops on an eclectic mix of autism related topics. An activist group of parents emerged in response to the void in autism services in New Brunswick and we fought hard to get early intervention funded by the province, too late for our own children. But the benefit of those efforts will be felt by newly diagnosed autistic children in New Brunswick and that is a good thing - a very good thing.

The earlier an autism diagnosis is received, the better. And in New Brunswick today, although things are far from perfect, evidence based intervention is available for those parents who choose it for their child - if they get an early diagnosis.

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