Early identification is associated with dramatically better outcomes for people with autism. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the earlier he or she can begin benefiting from early intervention treatment and education.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDD) recommends that all children be screened for autism by their family pediatrician three times by the age of three – at nine, 18, and 24 or 30 months. Treatment should start when an autism diagnosis is suspected, rather than when a formal diagnosis is made.
The advantages of early intervention cannot be overemphasized. Children who receive intensive therapy can make tremendous strides in their overall functioning.
The NCBDDD provides a wealth of information on the early signs of autism through its “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 it. For detailed information about these instruments and the research behind them, see this guide from the Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training.