What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges,” according to the Center for Disease Control. As its name states, autism is a spectrum disorder – meaning one child diagnosed with autism can have characteristics very different from another child diagnosed with autism. Because of such a wide variety of symptoms, parents, caregivers, teachers and even pediatricians may have difficulty identifying that a child may be displaying signs of autism.
Children can receive an accurate diagnosis of autism as early as twenty four months; however, most are not diagnosed until after age four years. A child diagnosed with ASD will have much greater success if they are identified early then receive specific and targeted intervention Currently, 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism.
Because delays in communication are part of an autism diagnosis, Speech Language Pathologists are often one of the first professionals that identify signs of autism. Speech Language Pathologists treat children with communication delays and communication disorders. In addition, Speech Language Pathologists are able to recognize behaviors that go beyond a communication disorder. For example, resisting participation in activities led by an adult, after many recurring weekly sessions, is not something a Speech Language Pathologist would expect to see in a child with only a communication disorder.
To be evaluated for autism, your child will need to have a developmental assessment. This will include testing and/or observation by a team of professionals consisting of a Child Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist, and Occupational Therapist. Part of the assessment may involve meeting with a Developmental Pediatrician and/or a Neurologist. Ask your Pediatrician if they feel a developmental assessment is needed for your child.
More information on autism can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html
By Laura Pierce, , MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist
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