By Michael Rock:
While much has been written on the benefits of early diagnosis and intervention of people with autism, few realize just how important it can be.
Despite the good an early diagnosis can offer someone with autism, they can be difficult to obtain. In addition to needing to rely on behavioral markers rather than biological ones, as well as differing access to experts, research, and records in different places, not everyone has the same opportunity to be adequately screened for autism.
In order to expedite the standard age at which children with autism are screened, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently called on its physicians to try and notice any behaviors or mannerisms that would suggest their patients are at risk of autism during every appointment with a baby, rather than waiting for a formal autism screening to solely determine it.
Though much debate exists over whether people with autism have a unique gaze, those who believe so have found that it can manifest before other defining symptoms, allowing for earlier detection than usual. At least one study has noticed that people with autism are less likely to look at people’s upper face when socializing, they may focus more on inanimate objects.
Many adults with autism who were diagnosed later in life have stated that they wished they could have received this information earlier on and preferably in early childhood, saying it would have reduced their social struggles and helped with self-esteem. It is also noted that people of color as well girls and women with autism are diagnosed at a lower rate than white boys and men. In the case of women, this is in part due to the fact that autism may manifest differently, sometimes with greater anxiety but fewer social deficits than their male counterparts.
Some cases of early detection and intervention are so effective, that the deficits that such children with autism face are virtually eliminated.
As more research about autism becomes available, it should become increasingly easier to detect autism earlier than later. This trend should give reason to hope, as it means that more children with autism will be getting the help they need to thrive in life.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.