Diagnosing autism before age 3

Lisa Tate’s recent blog wondered about the myth that children can’t be diagnosed with autism before age three. In the past, doctors were hesitant to diagnose autism in children less than 2 years of age, mostly because of the relatively limited amount of research showing stability of such early diagnoses. Doctors were more likely to provide a Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) diagnosis. They’d watch the child for two years, see if the signs and symptoms were still there, then switch the diagnosis to autism.

But that’s changing. Last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended autism-specific screening at 18-month and 24-month doctor visits. Now more children are being diagnosed earlier on.

Here at Easter Seals Bay Area we’ve launched an Early Intervention Autism Program (EIAP) to specifically serve children 18 months through 3 years who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. EIAP’s mission statement:

To provide empirically based interventions to young children aged 18 months to 3 years with autism and similar disabilities that will facilitate successful inclusion into the least restrictive environment.

The EIAP will provide best practices in the field of early intervention autism treatment by developing an approach that enables clinicians and families to choose from and use multiple treatment methodologies. This will be unique to a market of parents who, until now, have not been given a choice in regard to finding a treatment that will work for their child and family.

There is still much we do not know in the field of autism treatment, but we do know that through programs like the EIAP we can make many important contributions to the lives of many children and families affected by autism. As a society, we cannot afford to deliver anything but the most effective interventions to children with autism. Through programs like the EIAP, Easter Seals Bay Area is providing help, hope and answers for families living with autism today.


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  2. Alex Steele Says:


    Thanks for the response – while I’m not Matt, I do have the pleasure of working with our friends at Safeway on their annual campaign for Easter Seals. Each April, all 1700+ Safeway locations across the country help raise significant funds to support Easter Seals programs, including EIAP.

    Be sure to shop at Safeway and let them know you appreciate their commitment to people with autism and other disabilities, and keep an eye out in April for the opportunity to donate at checkout to Easter Seals!

  3. Jacob Wang Says:

    Matt: I hope the program is a BIG hit so far. Can someone shop at Safeway to support Easter Seals Bay Area, as well?

  4. Harold L Doherty Says:

    My 12 year old son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, an autism spectrum disorder, 10 years ago at age 2. His diagnosis was subsequently changed to Autistic Disorder as the severity of his deficits became more obvious with time. We did not seek an autism diagnosis and I had never heard of autism beyond a reference to the Rain Man movie which I had never watched.But it was clear long before my son’s 2nd birthday that he had some serious developmental and behavior issues. Lack of speech, odd behavior like sifting sand for unusually long periods of time, no response to the usual childhood games like peek a boo or other parent interaction, sitting with his face pressed against the side of the swing set for lengthy periods, holding a plastic toy ball in his hand for lengthy periods not letting it go and many others.

    Autism can be diagnosed long before age 3.

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