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Autism, 2.02 (V) Why is Early Identification Important?

In this lesson, we will be discussing the importance of early evaluation and identification of autism spectrum disorders. As indicated in the previous lesson, less than half of children identified with autism spectrum disorder are being evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they reached age three. Presently the average age of diagnosis for an autism spectrum disorder is four years of age. This is particularly concerning because research indicates that the earlier we identify characteristics of autism and the earlier that interventions and treatment can begin, the better the outcome. In this video, Dr. Robin Hansen discusses the importance of early identification for autism spectrum disorders. » So early identification, I think is really important for a lot of reasons. One of them is that the research is indicating that the earlier that we start intervention, the better the prognosis. Maybe that's the primary. Part of the reason for that I think is that we're beginning to really understand that when kids are missing out on social learning opportunities because of a variety of reasons, it just kind of snowballs on itself. And the earlier that we try and intervene and change learning, we change developmental trajectories. We think that's because there's some much more developmental plasticity in young brains. And neural connections are being made so rapidly that the earlier that we can sort of change that learning and where those neurons are going and how they're connecting the better we're gonna be overall. So I think that's really the most important piece of it. I think the other piece of it is that if diagnosis gets delayed, there's lots of other second difficulties that occur in terms of family interactions, in terms of expectations, in terms of just behaviors that develop because of frustration, confusion, how we sort of set up dynamics in families and for kids with other kids and interacting with family members. So I think there are lots, lots of reasons. One of them, again, the most important one, is just getting the right kinds of interventions, the right kinds of services so kids are learning. If early diagnosis is important, then how do we really promote early diagnosis and early identification? One way clearly is to try and make sure that children are getting systematic screening and that it's not just for kids who show a lot of symptoms. But that we start getting pediatricians, getting family practice, anybody who has regular contact with children to just systematically be screening, not only for autism, but for all kinds of early developmental delays. So that we're not just screening kids that are really obvious or kids that parents have been [LAUGH] I'm still concerned, I'm still concerned. Part of that is just having it be part routine well, child care. Part of it is also, I think the other flip side of it is that as health care professionals, we really need to be listening to parents' concerns and responding to them and not saying let's just wait and see, but really responding and taking parents' concerns very, very sincerely and carefully that we need to respond to those early. So there are gonna be some kids who have an atypical screen for autism who end up not having a diagnosis. And it may be that they have some language difficulties, it may be that they have some other developmental problems but not autism. And even though that might be a false positive for autism, if we're identifying kids who have other developmental problems, I don't consider that to be a false positive. I think it's really important that we identify all kinds of developmental delays, because the earlier that we identify them, the earlier that we try and get some intervention, the better everybody's outcome is gonna be. So even if it might be a false positive screen for autism, but we identify say speech and language delay, I think that's still really important to do.



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In this lesson, we will be discussing the importance of early evaluation and identification of autism spectrum disorders. As indicated in the previous lesson, less than half of children identified with autism spectrum disorder are being evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they reached age three. Presently the average age of diagnosis for an autism spectrum disorder is four years of age. This is particularly concerning because research indicates that the earlier we identify characteristics of autism and the earlier that interventions and treatment can begin, the better the outcome. In this video, Dr. Robin Hansen discusses the importance of early identification for autism spectrum disorders. » So early identification, I think is really important for a lot of reasons. One of them is that the research is indicating that the earlier that we start intervention, the better the prognosis. Maybe that's the primary. Part of the reason for that I think is that we're beginning to really understand that when kids are missing out on social learning opportunities because of a variety of reasons, it just kind of snowballs on itself. And the earlier that we try and intervene and change learning, we change developmental trajectories. We think that's because there's some much more developmental plasticity in young brains. And neural connections are being made so rapidly that the earlier that we can sort of change that learning and where those neurons are going and how they're connecting the better we're gonna be overall. So I think that's really the most important piece of it. I think the other piece of it is that if diagnosis gets delayed, there's lots of other second difficulties that occur in terms of family interactions, in terms of expectations, in terms of just behaviors that develop because of frustration, confusion, how we sort of set up dynamics in families and for kids with other kids and interacting with family members. So I think there are lots, lots of reasons. One of them, again, the most important one, is just getting the right kinds of interventions, the right kinds of services so kids are learning. If early diagnosis is important, then how do we really promote early diagnosis and early identification? One way clearly is to try and make sure that children are getting systematic screening and that it's not just for kids who show a lot of symptoms. But that we start getting pediatricians, getting family practice, anybody who has regular contact with children to just systematically be screening, not only for autism, but for all kinds of early developmental delays. So that we're not just screening kids that are really obvious or kids that parents have been [LAUGH] I'm still concerned, I'm still concerned. Part of that is just having it be part routine well, child care. Part of it is also, I think the other flip side of it is that as health care professionals, we really need to be listening to parents' concerns and responding to them and not saying let's just wait and see, but really responding and taking parents' concerns very, very sincerely and carefully that we need to respond to those early. So there are gonna be some kids who have an atypical screen for autism who end up not having a diagnosis. And it may be that they have some language difficulties, it may be that they have some other developmental problems but not autism. And even though that might be a false positive for autism, if we're identifying kids who have other developmental problems, I don't consider that to be a false positive. I think it's really important that we identify all kinds of developmental delays, because the earlier that we identify them, the earlier that we try and get some intervention, the better everybody's outcome is gonna be. So even if it might be a false positive screen for autism, but we identify say speech and language delay, I think that's still really important to do.


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