The real story about early autism diagnosis

Early identification of children with disabilities is important to Easter Seals. Our recent awareness campaign, Make the First Five Count, was launched to ensure the screening of all children and any child showing a delay receives appropriate early intervention services. There has been a lot of media attention since the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study last Friday about emerging research imaging to identify children as young as 6 months of age. This research isn’t yet to the level to be used by the general public, but the study was picked up by a large number of media outlets nonetheless.

The general public is clearly interested in identifying autism early, and so am I. I have seen the fantastic outcomes that can result from children with autism getting the services they need at the youngest age possible. Whether it’s brain imaging or a new behavioral diagnostic tool I am all for earlier identification, but the researchers conducting brain imaging studies have more work to complete before it can be determined if brain imaging is a good way to diagnose autism.

Current best practices in autism identification can provide a diagnosis as early as 24 months, but even though we have diagnostic tools to diagnose two-year-olds, the average age of diagnosis is still at age 4.5 years. What I’d really like to see the media cover is why this 2.5 year gap exists between our ability to diagnose autism and the age that so many children are finally diagnosed.

Kudos to the brain imaging scientists and their recent accomplishment. Thank you to the media professionals who are interested in covering early autism diagnosis, and a shout-out to all of us to keep working to ensure children with autism are diagnosed and receive quality intervention at the youngest age possible.


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