New law promotes autism screening starting at 18 months

Early intervention provides a lifetime of benefits.

Screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when your child is 18 to 24 months old is now recommended as a part of routine pediatric exams, according to a new legislation in New York State.

“This new law emphasizes the importance of screening young children for autism and is in line with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said Nili Major, MD, developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. “Early screening and diagnosis mean your child can get treatment sooner. That delivers benefits while your child’s brain is rapidly developing.”

What is autism spectrum disorder?

ASD is a developmental condition characterized by challenges in social interactions and communication abilities, as well as the presence of repetitive behaviors and intense interests. Though many parents may have early concerns about their child’s development, most kids aren’t diagnosed with ASD until after they’re four years old, Dr. Major added.

Screening for ASD in the pediatrician’s office is typically done using parent-completed questionnaires. If the screening test raises concern, further evaluation is necessary. Referral to an early intervention program is critical in order to begin any needed services as soon as possible.

Children on the autism spectrum learn important skills from early intervention, such as how to communicate and interact with others more appropriately. Early intervention services may include special education instruction, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, depending on the child’s individual needs.

“Early intervention sets children up for real progress,” Dr. Major said. “The advantages can last a lifetime for them and their families.”

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Kids First 2018