Early autism screening

Life & Health

A brand new study shows that doctors can lower the age of autism diagnosis by almost three years. It’s research that could improve treatment.

Aiden DeCarlo was diagnosed with autism at 19 months in the early intervention study. He’s come to the southwest autism research and resource center, or SARRC, for nearly a year.

Alex DeCarlo, Aiden’s dad said, “Big things that we see are in socialization. He enjoys playing around with friends. He really enjoys coming to school.”

Before he came here, there were tantrums because he couldn’t communicate. In fact, his mom says he was communicating at a five-month-old’s level.

Amber Snowden, Aiden’s mom said, “He’s now at between two and two and a half. In nine months, he’s gained a year and a half.”

SARRC Research Director Christopher Smith launched the study five years ago. One hundred and nine pediatricians used a standardized questionnaire in well-baby checkups at 12, 18, and 24 months. Diagnosis age plummeted from 55 months to an average of 22.

Christopher J. Smith, PhD, SARRC Research Director said, “What we want to do is not wait until we see absolutely clear impairments, we want to act on those early warning signs and get parents to seek an evaluation sooner so they can get into treatment sooner.”

Families were referred to SARRC if screenings showed delays. Aiden was getting help more than two years before he might have been diagnosed outside the study.

Doctor Smith said, “We took all of that lost time that happens as a result of the standard procedure of screening and diagnosing and gave that back to the family that they could better spend on intervention and helping their child move forward.”

“To see him in the not even a year that he’s already here at SARRC, how much he’s progressed is just completely amazing,” said Amber Snowden.

Christopher Smith says early intervention is the single best way to help kids with autism reach their potential.

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