Updated: Sep 2, 2020
As first-time parents, it might be difficult to see if your child is hitting all the developmental milestones at a proper age. Some early indicators of delayed developments are at 18 months, young children may constantly avoid eye contact, not be responsive to their names, and have repetitive motions. Other indicators are less obvious, but it is important to see a doctor rather than googling or asking friends if the child’s behavior is genuinely concerning. Nothing replaces the opinion and examination of a clinical expert. Generally, early diagnosis means around two years old. The importance of early diagnosis has been widely accepted and broadcasted, but it is crucial not to worry if the early diagnosis window is missed. Children who are diagnosed later probably have milder symptoms and average cognitive and language skills. These children might require fewer interventions, which is good news. The early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) allows earlier treatment plans can be implemented. Early intervention (before age of 4) has been associated with an increase in cognition, language, and adaptive behavior. Moreover, Evidence suggests that early intervention improves long term quality of life since more efforts are put in for aiding development at a younger age. A baby’s brain doubles in the first year and gets to 80% of its adult volume at age three. During this time, effective therapy would mean a world of difference in a child’s social and living abilities.
The role of parents is incredibly important in ASD interventions especially in early childhood. For children under 12 months, the main intervention is improving parents’ responsiveness for a better first relationship. Just telling parents to engage in more joint attention tasks with a child with ASD has been found to have the same improvement as having 24 hour/week therapy sessions. Due to the increased level of maintenance, the stress level is higher in families of children with ASD than other disabilities. In addition, high financial burden and not knowing who to turn for help may add to challenges these families face. Early intervention has been shown to save families 10,000 USD per year later in their child’s life. It is important to have a good relationship with the professional, as there is evidence showing that strong social bonds help to mitigate stress. Moreover, having dependable external sources of support help navigate stressful moments. Although taking care of children is important for parents, it is also necessary to take care of themselves as a negative relationship with self or others may negatively affect children.
Elder, J. H., Kreider, C. M., Brasher, S. N., & Ansell, M. (2017). Clinical impact of early diagnosis of autism on the prognosis and parent-child relationships. Psychology research and behavior management, 10, 283–292. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S117499