We’ve all heard of autism. We may even know of a child or adult with autism, or the parent of an autistic child. But what if you have a child who seems to act and react differently from others or whose behavior has gone through a sudden change? The idea of autism crosses your mind, but what is it really? And how would you know if your child has autism?
You’ve come to the right place. BASS ABA Therapy was established in 2003 and is built on our passion to serve the needs of children and families seeking answers to their autism questions. BASS ABA Therapy is based in Florida, but we are launching this blog because we realize that people everywhere need answers. The first question we can help you with is whether you might be facing an autism diagnosis in your family.
You may have a gut feeling that something isn’t right – that’s how you found this blog in the first place. So let’s begin at the beginning and give you some basic information.
Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder often appear before a child’s second birthday.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.”
As you’re trying to figure things out, it’s important to know that kids with autism are on a spectrum. They are unique – no two are just alike. In fact, according to Research Autism, several sub-types of autism were previously recognized within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and within the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. However, the fifth edition DSM-5, published in May 2013, eliminated sub-types listed above by dissolving them into one diagnosis called ASD.
Early intervention makes a difference.
In 2015, the University of Washington reported on a study by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry that showed that early intervention for toddlers with ASD helps improve their intellectual ability and reduces autism symptoms years after originally getting treatment. The study was the first in more than 20 years to look at long-term outcomes after early intensive autism intervention.
Other studies show that parents are exceptionally capable in detecting early signs of autism—especially when there is an older sibling or other family member with autism. For example, a 2009 article entitled How Early Do Parent Concerns Predict Later Autism Diagnosis? summarized and built on previous studies indicating that parents recognize signs of autism far earlier than it is diagnosed. The article stated that although symptoms are typically present by the second birthday and one-third of parents cite concerns before the first birthday, diagnoses are often not made until the fourth year of life or later. Early concerns are sometimes dismissed, resulting in a several month to several year delay of diagnosis. Their study also showed that parents with an older autistic child were particularly adept at catching early signs in children from 6 to 12 months.
Don’t wait to talk to a professional.
As the Marcus Autism Center points out, even though parents have certain concerns, they may put off seeking help from a professional. Parents may be waiting to see if the child grows out of certain behaviors or may be unsure if what their child is showing is a real concern. This group knows time is critical, so they have provided a list of simple milestones you can track (click here). They are examples of what typically developing children achieve. If your child is not meeting these milestones, talk to your pediatrician.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discusses How Pediatricians Screen for Autism on their parenting website HealthyChildren.org. They recommend that all children be screened for autism at their 18- and 24-month exams. The most common screening tool is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised (M-CHAT-R). It asks a series of 20 questions about your child’s behavior, and can be found here on the website Autism Speaks. It takes just a few minutes to assess the likelihood of autism, and you can take the results to your doctor.
Autism Speaks also tells us that if your child’s screening for autism identifies developmental delays or learning challenges, he or she is entitled to intervention services. You can start these services before your child receives an autism diagnosis. The site provides a First Concerns to Action Roadmap to help you get started finding the support and services you need.
You are not alone. There are many resources at every step of the way, from the maybe to diagnosed – now what? And if you are told your child has autism, BASS ABA Therapy is here to help. If you are located in Florida we can provide the best in personalized therapy. If not, keep reading our blog, review our FAQs and be sure to check out our Parent Resources.