Approximately 1 in every 88 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. As families learn of a child’s diagnosis, they can gain hope from the knowledge that early identification of affected children can help lessen the impact of this developmental disorder, and significantly improve the child’s overall quality of life.
“Autism spectrum disorders are a heterogeneous group of complex developmental disorders that appear within a child’s first three years of life,” explained Dr. Roberto Tuchman, Director of Autism and Neurodevelopment Program, at the Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center, which provides early diagnosis and interventions for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders. “For parents, knowing the developmental milestones that take place during a baby’s first 18 months of life is crucial, as this can help with identifying signs of autism or other developmental conditions,” said Dr. Tuchman.
The Early Signs
Parents of autistic children are almost always the first ones to suspect something is “different” about their child. Frequently they have concerns by the time the baby is 2 years old. Treatment for autism spectrum disorders can be helpful at any age, however, scientific studies have demonstrated that early intervention can ensure optimal outcomes for children with developmental disorders.
“There is no medical test to diagnose autism,” said Dr. Tuchman, “that’s why identifying early symptoms is so helpful in getting children the proper medical attention.” He noted, “Children with autism often miss major milestones or are delayed in some skills, such as the ability to follow and react to faces, responding to name, pointing, and sharing their excitement with others.” Additionally, children with autism often have difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and pretend play.
“In certain cases, a child may develop normally before age 1 or 2, then have a slowing or stagnation in development or even lose his or her language and social skills,” said Dr. Tuchman. The important point is to seek advice from your pediatrician early if there is any concern about a child’s development.
Studies show that interventions starting as early as 18 months of age can help improve a child’s ability to interact appropriately within the environment, and support development of language and social skills. Parents are encouraged to identify a facility specializing in early recognition and intervention of autism spectrum disorders. An early comprehensive team approach to autism spectrum disorders and other neurodevelopmental conditions can have a positive impact on the child’s developmental trajectory.
For more information on autism, visit http://www.mch.com