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Autism: The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

There is a concern among parents that we may be over-diagnosing our children with medical conditions that they do not have. I understand that concern. I, myself, have also raised concerns about the over-diagnosis of ADHD because it seems a convenient diagnosis for normally active children. But as much as we do not want to label our children out of a real or imagined fear of what it might mean, it is also a concern when parents refuse to acknowledge the possibility that their child may have a disorder. Burying our heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge a problem exists is harmful for our children’s development. One such condition that I want to bring attention to is Autism Spectrum Disorder, also referred to as ASD.

ASD is a case where early diagnosis can have a significant impact on your child’s life and any intervention will be beneficial. Even in the event of a misdiagnosis, no harm is done. In this case, it makes absolute sense to “get in early”.


What is Autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder effecting normal brain function. It affects the development of the individual’s communication and social interaction skills. It presents in the first three years of life and has a genetic link.


What Causes Autism?

What the research indicates:

Just as there are factors that increase the risk of developing autism, there is research to suggest that autism risk can be reduced by prenatal vitamins containing folic acid taken in the months before and after conception. (JAMA – February 2013)


Signs of Autism

A definitive diagnosis of autism is usually only made around 18 to 24 months, but you can observe signs in a child as early as 8 to 12 months old. What to look for:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

You can also take the M-Chat to help you decide if you need to see a specialist about your child. The general rule is that the earlier your child is diagnosed, the better your chances are for improving your child’s outcomes.



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This article originally appeared on Education Destination Malaysia. To read more about dealing with autism in children, please click here.