The Advantages of Diagnosing Autism Before Age 2

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Research suggests that autism diagnoses made at 14 months typically do not change as an infant grows older. Getty Images.

apara autism center

The earlier you begin the evidence-based treatment, such as occupational therapy with the child who has autism spectrum disorder the more effective your treatment will be.

Many specialists in the industry agree on this.

But, one of the obstacles to early intervention has been the validity of autism diagnoses for young children.

Before, a diagnosis was not considered to be reliableTrusted Source until age 2.

This could soon begin to change.

A study that was published in JAMA PediatricsTrusted Source concluding the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses that are made prior to fourteen months old typically don’t change when the child grows older.

The researchers tracked the development of 1,269 children, looking at the children multiple intervals, starting at the age of 12 months.

Researchers reported that they had noticed the diagnosis of autism at 14 months was typically “stable.”

They also discovered they found that 24 per cent of children later classified as ASD had been “missed” during initial assessments by licensed psychologists who linked the behavior pattern to other factors such as language impairment.

The findings of the new study could help health professionals looking to identify problems earlier and start implementing treatments earlier.

For families and children suffering from ASD This could lead to consequences that can change their lives.

“Now that we know the character of ASD and the extremely early stage of diagnosing stabilities, we can open up the possibility for researchers to study the effects of earlier-onset treatments,” Karen Pierce PhD, co-author on the study and professor at the department of neurosciences at University of California San Diego she told Healthline. “Our understanding of the brain’s early development suggests that early treatment will yield excellent results however, we’ll only know this after the studies are completed. Our findings provide a basis for further research.”

Two autism experts who were interviewed by Healthline confirmed that a diagnosis before 2 years old is possible, but they offered a few cautions.

Rebecca Sachs, PhD, an accredited Clinical psychologist working in CBT Spectrum in New York she said that signs of autism like language delays and social interactions are evident from as early as 14 months.

But, she also noted that sometimes, girls with autism are not diagnosed until a later age or are mistakenly diagnosed due to the structure and the measures employed in ASD assessments.

Kate Cody, PsyD, licensed psychologist at Spectrum Psychological Services, said the validity of these diagnostics early can be assessed by the factors that experts are looking at.

She also said that most diagnostics for children are based on the way a child interacts an adult. Other symptoms could be evident when the child reaches an older age and is able to interact with their peers.

“There is lots of variance,” said Sachs.

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The benefits of early detection

ASD covers a variety of disorders which are defined by issues to social competence, repetitive behavior speech, non-verbal communication.

It affects approximately one child in 59, according to Source and boys are nearly four times more likely be diagnosed than girls.

How the signs of autism appear can vary between one child and the next, making individual intervention plans essential.

Timing is an essential element in maximising the advantages of treatment.

Pierce mentions that the average age at which autism is diagnosed in children is 52 month.

“Given the capacity that the brain of humans has that is affected by early experiences especially during the first year of existence, the time of diagnosis is tragic as children do not receive treatments at a time that could be the most beneficial for their brains,” she said.

Sachs and Cody both agree.

“The earlier we intervene is done, the better the outcome we can expect,” said Sachs.

Cody said earlier treatments have a greater chance of changing the child’s brain, and changing behavior.

“Early intervention is usually more efficient,” she said.

Sachs stated that these programs can help develop better communication skills for children. This, in turn, helps to reduce stress and frustration.

“When an infant throws something across the room, they’re communicating” she explained.

Each of Sachs and Cody claimed that there could be no harm in the use of early intervention techniques on children who are not on the spectrum.

The therapy will help those who have language difficulties or other developmental issues that the child might be experiencing.

“It’s solely going to help the kid,” declared Cody.

Treatments, therapies and treatments available

There are three major methods of treatment and intervention including non-medical, medical and alternative or additional.

According to official at Autism Canada, the medical methods are:

  • special diets, for example, gluten-free
  • Pharmaceuticals, like antibiotics
  • nutraceuticals such as digestive enzymes

The non-medical strategies, as per the Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET), are extensive and comprise:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy that helps people to recognize and modify their behavior and thoughts.
  • Physical exercise that is used to decrease problematic behaviors or improve appropriate behavior while improving the physical condition and motor skills.
  • The intervention is implemented by parents and increases positive learning experiences and helps in the acquisition of crucial abilities.
  • Prompting to assist people in utilizing an specific skill.
  • Reinforcement is the process of establishing the connection between an individual’s behaviour/use of a skill, and also the result of the behavior or skill.
  • Self-management, which teaches people to manage their behavior and behave appropriately.
  • Training in social skills that assists people with adult, peer and various social interactions.

Alongside the above-mentioned interventions and therapies, a lot of parents and children with ASD receive help from other methods.

As per Autism Canada, these other treatments are:

  • art
  • music
  • occupational therapy
  • sensory integration
  • therapeutic recreation

Animal therapy is also praised in The Autism Society as an effective treatment option in the right situations. The therapy for animals can involve the use of dogs, horseback riding or even swimming with dolphins.

“These animals are able to provide stimulants for the senses, as well as a place of concentration, and an opportunity to gain insight into behaviour and communication,” states the Autism Society.

Cody and Sachs mentioned that therapies can help children even after they reach adulthood, particularly if therapies continue.

“Intervention is crucial in the development of abilities that last for the rest of their lives,” said Cody.

Sachs explained that these therapies are also able to help in dealing with depression, anxiety, and obsessive behaviors that can occur with autism.

What can caregivers do?

What can you do if you are noticing the signs of developmental slowdowns?

Consult a physician who will evaluate ASD immediately.

“If your child exhibits indications of ASD It is crucial to get them an evaluation by a certified professional immediately,” said Pierce. “The the high degree of stability that comes with an ASD diagnosis in the early stages of development suggests that the signs of ASD won’t disappear by themselves. The ‘wait and watch approach is likely unsuitable for the interests that of the baby.”

Sachs and Cody say that treatments may also be beneficial for parents.

Parents are said to comprehend a child’s behavior more when they are diagnosed and are informed about the treatments being offered.

Parents may also be enticed to join an organization for support.