Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that emerges in infancy but is often not diagnosed until 3 years of age.
As Speech Pathologists, we are often the “first port of call” for parents worried about their child’s speech and language development. As a result, we often see many very young children with characteristics of what may be the early signs of autism: these include poor eye contact (not looking at adult’s eyes), having very few words, or children who had some words, but no longer say them, and restricted behaviours or interests. It affects a child’s social communication. Sometimes parents may come for an assessment, but prefer to “wait and see”, before commencing therapy.
A terrific Australian paper was published on September 20th 2021 by Whitehouse et al. in JAMA Pediatrics*. The researchers wanted to find out if it made a difference to children’s outcomes if therapy was commenced before they were officially given a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), often around 3 years of age.
They studied 103 children in a randomised clinical trial showing early signs of ASD in infancy from as young as 9 months of age. Children were reviewed at 12 months, 18 months 24 months and 3 years of age.
The results of the study showed that pre-emptive intervention at the time that concerning behaviours started to emerge (before an official diagnosis), led to a significant reduction in ASD behaviours across early childhood and reduced the odds of an ASD diagnosis at 3 years of age.
This is very significant new research for parents and speech pathologists alike.
So, in answer to the question, “should I wait and see” if I am worried about my children’s development, speech and language or engagement? The answer is a resounding no. Early intervention, no matter how early, can have a huge impact on a child’s communication skills and children’s life outcomes.
It is important for young children who are showing signs of ASD to learn how to communicate as soon as possible. Speech language pathologists can help a child with their speech and communication development, social skills, body language and facial expressions, sign language, etc. If you have a child who shows early signs of ASD, please contact Eastside Speech Solutions and speak directly to our team of specialists today about an effective treatment plan for ASD.
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