Testing For Autism

Being in the profession I am in and working so closely with children and their families it is often very hard to separate work and personal life. Many of the children I work with, I see several times a week and have been for quite some time. I see these children more than I see my own extended family and take working with them very personally.

Anyway, if you’ve read many of my articles you know there are some things that drive me crazy.

One thing is hearing that a pediatrician told a parent not to be concerned about their child’s delayed development because they will grow out of it. While it is true that there are common delays that many children will grow out of, the risks outweigh the benefits of waiting.

The more prudent course of action would be to refer to the appropriate specialist. This would reduce the number of children falling through the cracks.

Many children have come to my office with significant developmental issues related to autism spectrum disorders that have either been missed, or worse the parents have been told not to be concerned. This should not be happening.

Part of this problem has been caused by a lack of appropriate guidelines.

So today I am most thankful about the new guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding Autism. These guidelines, initiated by a group of the nation’s top pediatricians were issued on Monday, October 29th 2007.

The guidelines say that all children should be formally screened twice by the age of 2 years, at the 18 and 24 month checkup regardless of concerns and earlier if there are any reported concerns.

There are two new clinical reports issued for pediatricians. The one containing these guidelines is called “Identification and Evaluation of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.” The second report is titled “Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.” These reports can be viewed at www.aap.org.

While these new tests will surely have their problems, they are a step in the right direction.

They will help identify more children who have autism spectrum disorders at an earlier age. Another hopeful side effect will be more doctors identifying other developmental issues at an earlier age and realizing the importance of getting a specialist involved.

Research has proven the effectiveness and importance of intervening early.

So whether it’s Autism or Apraxia, hopefully next year fewer children will be falling through the cracks. And hopefully fewer parents will be coming through my door against the advice of “wait and see.” If so, that is something we can all be thankful for.

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More