From the time your child is born until kindergarten, there are certain expected “milestones” in how they play, learn, communicate, or act. With the free “Milestone Tracker” app available at cdc.gov/MilestoneTracker, you can track your child’s development and reach out to your child’s doctor with any concerns to learn about next steps.
One type of developmental concern is Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. April is World Autism month, a time dedicated to increasing global understanding and acceptance of people with autism. About one in 59 children is identified with ASD and it is about four times more common among boys than girls. Whereas ASD can cause significant challenges for children’s social, communication, and behavioral development, the challenges for a child can range from mild to severe.
By age 2, it’s possible to receive a clear diagnosis of ASD, but many children aren’t diagnosed until after they are preschool age. Getting a diagnosis early allows parents to get help with their child’s development even before preschool begins which can lead to positive impacts on a child’s ability to play, learn, communicate and act.
What to watch for
Parents often notice developmental problems before their child’s first birthday, such as:
- Not pointing at objects to show interest
- Not looking at objects when another person points at them
- Avoiding eye contact
- Preferring not to be held or cuddled
- Repeating actions over and over again
- Having trouble expressing their needs by using common words or actions
What to do
Diagnosis of ASD starts with developmental screening during each well-child check from 9-months to 30-months, with specific screening for ASD at 18 and 24-months. These screenings are also conducted by early childhood teachers, home visitors, and other professionals. If the doctor or other professional has concerns, they can make a referral to a developmental pediatrician for a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. These physicians have special training in child development and children with special needs.
A wide variety of services and approaches can help children with ASD, including Early Intervention; behavior and communication approaches like PLAY, ABA, and various therapies, medication to help with related symptoms, and more. Early Intervention can make a remarkable difference in the lives of children under three, when brain development is most rapid. Evaluation and services can begin even before a child is diagnosed with ASD. Federal IDEA regulations ensure early intervention evaluations at no cost to families, service coordination to help navigate services, providers, and funding and individualized services to help children from birth to 3-years-old learn important skills.
To connect with early intervention in Ohio (also known as Help Me Grow), parents and caregivers can visit ohioearlyintervention.org and click on the “Refer Now” button, or call 1-800-755-4769. Those living in Michigan can reach early intervention (Early On) at 1800earlyon.org or call 1-800-Early On (1-800-327-5966).
For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities, parents and caregivers can go to the Autism Spectrum Disorder page for families at cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/families.html