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Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is Key to Managing Symptoms

April 9, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is Key to Managing Symptoms | The puzzle pieces for Autism Awareness Month

Have you started seeing blue and white puzzle pieces around this month? April is Autism Awareness Month and the puzzle piece is a symbol associated with Autism Awareness. We hear a lot about Autism in the news, but what really is Autism and why is early diagnosis so important?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a “group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges,” according to the CDC. Think of it this way: if a child has sensory processing difficulties, he or she might scream nonstop when an airplane flies by or an ambulance’s sirens start up unexpectedly. Bright lights, unfamiliar noises, social settings, wind, or even textured foods can affect a child with ASD by leading that child to communicate his or her feelings by screaming, running away, or throwing a tantrum.

As an early intervention specialist and licensed professional counselor for an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program, I have worked with many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Like many other mental or physical disorders, the earlier doctors and parents know that a child has ASD, the earlier they can start managing and treating those symptoms.

About the Disorder

  • In order to diagnose ASD, doctors must evaluate a child’s behavior and overall development. The severity and symptoms vary between each person with ASD.
  • In the mental health and medical fields, the ASD diagnosis now includes pervasive developmental disorder, autistic disorder, and Asperger syndrome.
  • The exact cause of ASD is unknown and still being researched, but the CDC has published some known risk factors.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms to look for in a young child include: Limited language, speech impairment or delays, social-emotional delays, sensory processing difficulties, repetitive behavior or movements, fixation on items, limited eye contact, poor coping skills, difficulty with changes in routine, and/or lack of play skills. If your child or someone you know is experiencing two or more of these symptoms, please talk to your child’s pediatrician. 
  • Symptoms may be more noticeable in the first years of life. Keeping all well-baby check-ups is important for screenings and referrals.

Early Diagnosis

  • Early diagnosis of ASD is key to begin treatment and therapy to alleviate the severity of some symptoms.
  • Early intervention therapy, coaching, and support are available for children diagnosed with ASD and their families.

Bring awareness to ASD and share this information with your family and other parents. When in doubt about your child’s development, call your pediatrician or local ECI agency for a screener or evaluation. You are your child’s best advocate because you know him or her better than anyone else. If you do discover your child has ASD, work with your doctor and ECI agency to find a treatment plan that best manages your child’s symptoms.

Learn more about important milestones, well-baby checkups, and other best health practices for your child in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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