American Pediatricians Advise Autism Screening
Chicago: America’s top pediatrician group advised that children should be screened for autism twice by the time they are two years.
At its annual meeting in San Francisco, the group presented the advice in two reports. The advice is meant to help both parents and doctors spot autism sooner so that therapy can begin as soon as possible. While autism has no cure, but early therapy can lessen its severity.
There are many warning signs that are indications for immediate evaluation. These include no babbling or pointing or other gesture by 12 months; no single words by 16 months; no two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months; loss of language or social skills at any age.
Earlier, subtle signs that could lead to earlier diagnosis include not turning when the parent says the baby’s name; not turning to look when the parent points says, “look at...” and not pointing themselves to show parents an interesting object or event; lack of back and forth babbling; smiling late; and failure to make eye contact with people.
Dr. Scott Myers, a pediatrician, who helped write two clinical reports, said, “If you recognize it earlier, you get them into treatment earlier. Kids who start (treatment) earlier do better in the long run.”
Autism screening for all children at their regular doctor visits at age 18 months and 24 months was urged in 2006 policy statement.
According to reports, the treatment should include 25 hours a week of intensive behavior-based therapy, including educational activities and speech therapy.
Yet, no one knows what causes autism. The symptoms range from mild awkwardness to severe disability and mental retardation.
One in every 150 American children has autism or an autism spectrum disorder, such as Asperger’s syndrome.
Myers said, “You can begin with therapy geared toward the impairments that are there.”
Pediatricians should make themselves aware of various alternative therapies and to help parents make treatment decisions based on scientific evidence.
Canadian pediatricians are approving the recommendations.
Dr. Wendy Roberts, the director of the Child Development Centre at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, “I think it is absolutely essential to be watching children for early signs of autism so I think it is an excellent recommendation. We are trying to teach all family physicians and pediatricians to look very carefully for the early signs of autism.”