Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one in 68 children. Parents typically screen their children for autism between 18 and 24 months old.
However, new research indicates that screening children for autism spectrum disorder as early as 14 months old can make treatments for the disease work more effectively than the current recommended guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The study, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, April 29, conducted an experiment with over 1269 toddlers between 12 and 36 months with and without autism spectrum disorder.
The children were evaluated in ASD features such as language delay, developmental delay, and other developmental issues by a licensed psychologist.
The findings showed that the stability of children tested between ages 12 and 13 months are weakest. Only 50 percent were genuinely diagnosed with ASD in their next visits while children that were diagnosed at 14 months old has 79 percent likeliness to have the disorder.
A total of 105 toddlers who were evaluated as having no ASD diagnosis in their first visit have been diagnosed with late identified ASD.
Treatment At An Early Age
According to the study, an accurate diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder at earlier than 18 months is feasible, and there may be opportunities to test the usefulness of autism spectrum disorder treatment at an early age.
Author of the study Dr. Karen Pierce of the Department of Neurosciences, University of California hopes that the study can help benefit the children and their families and be a crucial step towards early treatments such as therapies.
"Once a toddler is identified as (having) ASD, there is an extremely low chance that he or she will test within typical levels at age three or four, so it's imperative that we use every effective tool as early as we can to begin treating diagnosed children to the benefit of them and their families over the long-term," said Pierce.
Other doctors and practitioners were not surprised by the results of Dr. Pierce's study. They also believe that children should be diagnosed early for autism spectrum disorder.
Michael Morrier, an assistant professor and program director of screening and assessment at the Emory Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, commented on the study.
He said that the most significant advantage in diagnosing young is to prevent challenging behaviors such as the child banging their head on a table to get attention or isolating from other people.
"It's because they've learned over time if I'm not communicating and I start banging my head, that gets a reaction, so by diagnosing early, we're going to probably prevent a lot of those types of behaviors from starting," said Morrier.
Morrier also pointed out that early diagnosis can help benefit their families and the people surrounding them. The parents can boost their children's confidence so they could have real social experiences that every child should encounter.
He added that having them diagnosed early helps the children to have the skills to reach their fullest potential. Parents shouldn't also be reluctant because understanding the importance of ASD diagnostic stability should not be underrated.