Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is becoming a more widely recognized diagnosis in the US. According to the CDC, 1 in every 59 American children is on the autism spectrum, a rise of 15 percent over two years. Improvements in defining and diagnosing the disorder are at least partially responsible for this increase. Regardless of the reason behind this uptick in recent cases of autism, it’s clear that autism is more of an issue than previously thought. As a result, ASD requires more of our attention.
Thankfully, effective treatment is available. A therapeutic technique called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provides positive results among individuals dealing with the symptoms of autism. Based on pioneering psychologist B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant behavior, ABA focuses on the close relationship between learning and behavior. ABA treatment encourages the development of positive actions through positive reinforcement.
ABA has its most profound results when applied at the youngest possible age. To start Applied Behavior Analysis treatment, a doctor must provide a diagnosis of autism and in some cases, a prescription for ABA therapy. A child can be diagnosed with ASD as early as 18 months of age. With our increased awareness and understanding of autism, it is much easier to spot the early signs of autism.
Detecting Autism Early
The best way to detect autism early is to pay close attention to developmental milestones. These are skills or behaviors a child typically will display or master by the time they reach a certain age. Having said that, it’s important to remember that these are guidelines, not rules. Many children may reach certain milestones early while lagging on others. Some children with autism may reach all their milestones on time before beginning to fall behind. What you’re looking for are more persistent difficulties, particularly in speech, non verbal forms of communication, and social skills.
Most children with ASD will be recognizable by the age of three. But again, all children are different. While it’s technically never too late to be diagnosed with autism, it’s best to err on the safe side and get your child screened early. The sooner a child with autism can get diagnosed, the sooner they can begin therapy. Therapy outcomes are most effective when treatment starts as early as possible.
Tracking Developmental Milestones
Do you suspect your child is on the autism spectrum? If so, keep your eye on their behaviors as they age and mark them against standard developmental milestones. The CDC has some excellent resources for doing this, including printable materials and a phone app. However, here are some of the most common milestones to beware of:
- Feeds very slowly
- Doesn’t blink at bright light
- Doesn’t respond to loud sounds
- Excessively loose or stiff limbs
- Doesn’t track moving objects
- Doesn’t bring objects to mouth
- Isn’t smiling at sound of parent’s voice
- Doesn’t push legs down when placed on hard surface
- Doesn’t grasp and hold objects
- Can’t support head properly
- Displays little or no affection toward caregiver
- Doesn’t enjoy being around people
- Can’t roll over
- Doesn’t laugh
- Doesn’t head toward nearby sounds
- Isn’t reaching for things
- Doesn’t try to attract attention
- Sensitive to light
- Doesn’t smile spontaneously
- Shows no interest in peekaboo
- Doesn’t crawl
- Isn’t pointing to things
- Doesn’t say single words
- Doesn’t use gestures (e.g. waving)
- Can’t stand, even when supported
Finding Support for ASD
If you’re worried that your child is missing developmental milestones, Ascend Autism can help! With a dedicated staff of experts, we can help you navigate everything from the screening process to finding the right ABA therapy program. If you have questions about Ascend Autism or want more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), please call us at (877) 323-8668.