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When is a Good Time to Get My Child Diagnosed for ASD?


Children can be screened for autism from the young age of 18 months.

Children can be reliably screened for autism from as young as 18 months of age. While signs of autism can also be detected earlier, the presentation and intensity of early signs may differ with each child. Some signs may be more apparent only at older ages. Therefore, there is no fixed age for diagnosing autism. Although studies do show that a reliable diagnosis can be attained by the age of 2, some may only receive a diagnosis at much later years (Lord et al., 2006), with an average of about 5 years in global trends (van ’t Hof et al., 2020). Some may even be diagnosed only in adolescence or adulthood, which would hinder the type of support needed.


During routine checks at the clinics, doctors and nurses would also ask caregivers questions to conduct development monitoring for children. It would be important for caregivers to raise any observations or family history to provide professionals more information for monitoring and eventual diagnosis (Screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder 2022).


Furthermore, as early diagnosis and intervention has consistently showed multiple benefits for children with autism, it is important for caregivers to be vigilant for the early signs of autism (Landa, 2018). Should caregivers be concerned upon observations of early signs and missed developmental milestones, these should be raised to professionals for further examinations.


Early Signs of Autism

Early signs of autism could manifest in three different ways, namely within socialisation and communication skills, as well as behaviours that are repetitive or restrictive in nature. Some of these signs may include evasion of eye contact, lack of responsiveness to their names and persistence to keep to certain routines. However, children with autism may not present all early signs, nor do children who present some signs have autism. So, it is important for caregivers to keep a good record of children’s developmental milestones.


Developmental milestones are skills that typically developing children can do by certain ages. By a certain age, children are expected to attain certain skills in 5 areas: gross motor (physical movement skills), fine motor (skills that involves the use of small muscles in the hands), language (such as expressive and receptive skills), cognitive (such as learning and thinking), and social-emotional and behavioural (such as emotional regulation skills). Such skills may include social smiles and waving at other social partners.


For example, at 6 months of age, children can be expected to attain certain social-emotional milestones like recognition of caregivers, language milestones like babbling and cognitive milestones that includes mouthing of toys to explore. While another child at twelve months would have a different set of developmental milestones, such as distress when a parent leaves his sight, waving farewell and putting things into a container. Deviations from the norm at a child’s age-specific milestone may signal an early symptom that will aid professionals in determining if a child has autism (Misirliyan & Huynh, 2022; CDC's Developmental Milestones 2022).


But not all deviations or missed milestones is an early sign of autism, nor does a lack of early signs mean there's no risk at all for autism. Be mindful and keep a good record of your child’s development. If you suspect that your child has autism, do raise it to your paediatrician for further diagnosis.


References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 29). CDC's Developmental Milestones. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 31). Screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html#:~:text=ASD%20can%20sometimes%20be%20detected,they%20are%20adolescents%20or%20adults.


Landa, R. J. (2018). Efficacy of early interventions for infants and young children with, and at risk for, autism spectrum disorders. International Review of Psychiatry, 30(1), 25–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540261.2018.1432574


Learn the signs of autism. Autism Speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/signs-autism


Lord, C., Risi, S., DiLavore, P. S., Shulman, C., Thurm, A., & Pickles, A. (2006). Autism from 2 to 9 years of age. Archives of general psychiatry, 63(6), 694–701. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.63.6.694


Misirliyan, S. S., & Huynh, A. P. (2022, April 30). Development milestones. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32491450/


van ’t Hof, M., Tisseur, C., van Berckelear-Onnes, I., van Nieuwenhuyzen, A., Daniels, A. M., Deen, M., Hoek, H. W., & Ester, W. A. (2020). Age at autism spectrum disorder diagnosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis from 2012 to 2019. Autism, 25(4), 862–873. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361320971107


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