Diagnosis for Children - The Value of Early intervention
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult, because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Further complicating matters is that the development and presentation of ASD symptoms is not uniform across children and there is great variability in when a parent or caregiver may become concerned regarding the child’s development. For example, some children with ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had. Studies have shown that one third to half of parents of children with an ASD noticed a problem before their child’s first birthday, and nearly 80%–90% saw problems by 24 months of age.
Research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development. Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. Therefore, it is critical that parents, caregivers, and physicians be aware of developmental milestones and the early warning signs of ASD. If a parent is concerned about their child’s development in any area, it is important that they voice these concerns to their pediatrician during their well visits. Physicians can also use the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddler (M-CHAT), as a free screening tool to determine if the child requires a more comprehensive evaluation to determine if their symptoms are consistent with ASD.