Bringing the Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders Into Focus

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, autism advocacy groups and researchers have all drawn attention to the importance of the early detection of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to make access to early intervention possible. The scientific literature indicates that the average age of ASD diagnosis is 4 years, despite the fact that about half of children with this neurodevelopmental disorder may be detected by age 14 months. The AAP recommends that ASD-specific screeners be administered within pediatric practices beginning at age 18 months. However, these screeners are imperfect and often require parents to provide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to questions about the presence of certain behaviors. Yet ASD-related behaviors often present inconsistently, and are intermixed with behaviors seen in typically-developing children. In addition, ASD-related behaviors often differ from typical development in quality, not just in quantity.
To improve recognition of the early signs of ASD among pediatricians, parents, and early intervention providers, autism researcher Dr. Rebecca Landa of Kennedy Krieger Institute has developed a free 9-minute video tutorial on ASD behavioral signs in one-year-olds. The tutorial consists of six video clips comparing toddlers who show no signs of ASD to toddlers who show early signs of ASD. Each video is presented with voice-over explaining how the specific behaviors exhibited by the child, as they occur on screen, are either indicative of ASD or typical child development.

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