I've written before about the confusion and difficulty around the diagnosis of Autism in young children (before the age of 3). My regular readers know that I'm a strong proponent of Early Intervention screening, and also of early intervention therapy services. This means having your local Child Development center see your child BEFORE the age of three, should you have any concerns about her development, social interaction, or communication skills.
But you also know that I am loathe to jump on the autism-hysteria bandwagon. I worry that there are many other problems that are being missed because we're jumping to the Autism diagnosis too quickly. Issues of sensory, cognitive, medical, environmental, or even genetic problems can be missed when a diagnosis is made too quickly. Also, the range of child development is so wide, that what can SEEM abnormal may not be. And I blame my field; many of us are so concerned about the number of developmentally delayed children out there, and so few of us are adequately trained to truly evaluate for Autism in the early years, that too may children are mistakenly diagnosed as Autistic. And then their REAL problems go undetected -- and untreated. If I had a million bucks (or ten) I'd start a training foundation centered on the intensive training of Early Intervention clinicians in the detection and treatment of Autism-related conditions -- and other problems that might SEEM like Autism, but are NOT. We need a nation-wide (heck, world-wide) training initiative so that psychologists, pediatricians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, special instruction teachers -- indeed the whole range of Early Intervention professionals -- can get the advanced training we all need in this very specialized area.
In the meantime, you can read this very interesting article at Time.com summarizing some of the newest research on signs of Autism in the very young infant. It also helps to explain why this is truly a very difficult disorder to diagnose in the early years. And if you missed it, there's also a link to a popular post of mine on the diagnosis of Autism.
Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink