Screening for autism
Your pediatrician has probably already recommended regular well-child checkups. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children be specifically screened for autism at their 18- and 24-month-old well-baby checkups. A pediatrician can use these screens to look for delays in developmental milestones that might indicate an autism spectrum disorder.
If you think your child is showing some of the early signs of autism, schedule a visit with your pediatrician whether it’s time for a well-child visit or not. Your doctor can screen your baby for autism by age 18 months. At this point it is also a good idea to have other routine tests, such as a hearing test and a test for the presence of lead. Some language and developmental delays can be a result of these factors rather than autism.
Your pediatrician may use an autism-specific screen. During this screening, you will be asked questions about the child’s behavior and development, and a professional will observe the child doing different activities.
If the autism-specific screen shows signs of an ASD, the next step is a more extensive evaluation by a team of specialists. Because ASDs are so complex, it is common for professionals from a variety of fields to be involved. These professionals may be from psychology, speech therapy, child psychiatry, neurology, and pediatrics. This team can provide a thorough assessment of your child’s development and work with the family to determine the best educational and treatment plan for the child.
Because autism can be diagnosed at a young age, it is possible to begin autism treatment early, before a child enters preschool or kindergarten. Starting a plan early gives your child a chance to make gains in communication, social skills, and behavior.