While cruising the web today, I noticed this article on MSNBC. The Americana Academy of Pediatrics are calling for autism screenings for toddlers. All I can say is IT IS ABOUT TIME! As an Early Childhood Interventionist, I have met way too many parents over the years who went to their pediatricians with concerns of autism only to be told "Let's wait and see. Come back and see me if he isn't talking when he turns three."
Fortunately, many of these parents continued in their quest to get answers and had their children evaluated by their local early intervention program. As a result, they were able to get much needed early intervention services. One concern shared in the article is that it may cause many parents to worry about their child being autistic if he or she has one of the "red flags." I can say that there have been many students evaluated by our early intervention team that presented many characteristics of autism during the evaluation process, but were not autistic at all. I describe these kids as "quirky kids" as they have different mannerism and social skills but don't quite fit the criteria for autism.
There is actually a very good book titled Quirky Kids by Perri Klass and Eileen Costello. It talks about some of these different social interaction patterns and offers insights and suggestions for parents on what to do. It also offers a great intro to parents on the different types of therapies that are available to children with developmental delays as well as an overview of the process of getting a child evaluated to determine if they are eligible for special education services.
A new resource for parents who are concerned that their child might have autism is AutismSpeaks. Parents can find videos of children displaying some of the red flags of autism along with a multitude of other information on the subject. It really is a very informative site. I am actually very familiar with one of the contributing organizations to the site, First Signs, as we use one of their checklists with families when their are concerns about autism.
The Autism Speaks site also shares a great deal of information on treatment options for autism. There is a lot of disagreement amongst professionals as to what works and what doesn't. For those professionals out their reading this, I encourage you to put yourselves in the parent's position when discussing these treatments. I know that as a mom myself, I would do and try ANYTHING to help my child research or no research. So we need to respect any and all efforts that parents in this situation do whether we think it is a waste of time or not. Wouldn't you want the same, after all?
In closing, I just want to say that I think it is fantastic that the AAP is pushing for this. I know first hand that early intervention can make dramatic changes in the lives of the children and families affected by autism. The earlier they get help and support, the better.
Do you have or know of someone with a child affected by autism? How soon did you know? What experiences did you have in the process of getting your child evaluated? Share your thoughts!