Autism: Diagnosis & Consultation
There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual's communication, behavior, and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors associated with autism are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited. At first glance, some persons with autism may appear to have mental retardation, a behavior disorder, problems with hearing, or even odd and eccentric behavior. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, since an accurate diagnosis and early identification can provide the basis for building an appropriate and effective educational and treatment program.
A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of an individual's abilities and behaviors. Parental (and other caregivers' and/or teachers) input and developmental history are very important components of making an accurate diagnosis.
Why Early Identification is Critical
Research indicates that early diagnosis is associated with dramatically better outcomes for individuals with autism. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the earlier the child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention approaches treatment and education.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism by their family pediatrician twice by the age of 2, at 18 months and again at 24 months. The AAP also recommends that treatment be started when an autism diagnosis is suspected rather than waiting for a formal diagnosis. Go to http://www.aap.org/ to see the complete list of recommendations. The advantages of early intervention cannot be overemphasized. Children who receive intensive therapy can make tremendous strides in their overall functioning and go on to lead productive lives. Click here for more information on early intervention.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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