Research indicates that early identification 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 to 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 treatment start when an autism diagnosis is suspected, rather than when a formal diagnosis is made. Visit 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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities also provide a wealth of information on the early signs of autism through their "Learn the Signs. Act Early" initiative.
While there is no one behavioral or communications test that can detect autism, several screening instruments have been developed for use in diagnosing autism. For detailed information about these instruments and the research behind them, see http://www.txautism.net/uploads/target/AutismScreen_Assess.pdf.