In December of 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report on autism. The report was an extensive document that summarized 12 years of research and clinical activity. Researchers noted that one key message of the report was the emphasis on early identification and treatment of autism spectrum disorder. The report noted that treatment should begin even if a diagnosis of autism is only suspected but not confirmed. The earlier treatment begins, the better the outcomes.
The average age of autism diagnosis is age four. However, researchers note that the goal should be to get a diagnosis under two years of age. Children who are at high risk, such as those with siblings that have autism, should receive close screening and attention. Unfortunately, many specialty clinics have long waits, and it can take months to see someone to receive a diagnosis. The authors of the report are hopeful that more pediatricians can refer families to early intervention services before a specific diagnosis has been confirmed.
Types of Treatment
There are various treatments available to children with autism. The most intense treatment is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This treatment addresses specific behaviors, identifies triggers, and rewards children when they behave in the desired way. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and occupational therapy have also proved helpful. In some cases, medication treatment may be necessary. Regardless of the type of intervention, the earlier the treatment is begun, the more effective it will be.
There are also a host of other medical, behavioral, and psychiatric conditions that children with autism may have. These conditions can affect a child’s overall functioning. Addressing these conditions early with medication or therapy can also be extremely helpful.
With the use of early treatment, some children with autism reach an optimal outcome to where all of their symptoms are under control. However, for many, work on transitioning into school and then adulthood must be considered. Early diagnosis and treatment can help make these conversations possible and lead to more successful planning for the future.
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