As you learned before, the Autism spectrum consists of many different traits or ways the brain processes information; these traits can create strengths in some areas and difficulties in others, ranging in severity depending on the task and situation.
Early detection means earlier access to intervention
Research shows that early diagnosis of autism is more likely to have major, long-term, positive effects on symptoms and later skills. Some Autistic children whose development appears typical up to the age of 2-3 years can begin to regress. In this period, a young child’s brain is still forming, meaning it is more “plastic” or changeable than at older ages. Because of this plasticity, intervention has a better chance of being effective in the longer term. Early interventions not only give children the best start possible but also the best chance of developing to their full potential.
Early intervention programs often include:
While early intervention is best, when working with parents use language “to address [child’s] needs as soon as identified, don’t just wait and see, work on developmental milestones when possible.” Our goal, as educators, is not to shame or cause additional anxiety to parents. We are there to support one another and remember we are all doing our best.
Many Autistic children show developmental differences when they are babies—especially in their social and language skills. Because they usually sit, crawl, and walk on time, less obvious differences in the development of body gestures, pretend play, and social language often go unnoticed.
These are some examples that may help a parent tell the difference between normal developmental milestones and early signs of ASD. Keep in mind: this list is not a diagnostic tool, and no one Autistic child will have exactly the same symptoms as another.
The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network data found no overall difference in the percent of Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children identified with ASD by 8 years of age in 2018. However, disparities still exist in some communities.
These findings, among 8-year-olds, may indicate that efforts to promote ASD identification are working, but also suggest that more can be done to improve ASD identification, particularly among Hispanic children. Studies have shown that stigma, lack of access to healthcare services, and non-English primary language are potential barriers to identification of Autism, especially among Hispanic children. In short, more work is needed to improve identification of ASD within Hispanic communities.
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