Autism & Asperger's part 2
Early Screening for Autism
Many children aren’t diagnosed with an autism disorder until preschool or even kindergarten, and may miss getting the help they need in the early years. That's why guidelines call for screening all children at nine months old for delays in basic skills. Special ASD checkups are needed at:
- 18 months
- 24 months
- As needed for children with worrisome behaviors or a family history of autism
Diagnosis: Speech Problems
At regular checkups, the doctor will check how your baby responds to your voice, smile, or other expressions. Is he cooing or babbling? Problems or delays in speech call for a visit to a speech therapist. A hearing test may be needed, too. Most children with autism will eventually speak, but they do so later than others. Making conversation may be especially tough. Children with ASDs also may speak in a sing-song or robotic way.
Diagnosis: Poor Social Skills
Trouble relating to other people is an important marker of an autism spectrum disorder. A psychologist with special training can help identify social problems as early as possible. Children may avoid looking people in the eye, including their parents. They may focus intently on an object, while ignoring others around them for long periods of time. They may not use gestures, body posture, or facial expressions to communicate.
There's no medical test for autism, but exams may be helpful to rule out hearing loss, speech difficulties, lead poisoning, or developmental problems not related to autism. Parents may need to answer a list of questions -- called a screening tool -- to assess a child's behavior and communication skills. Getting treatment early, ideally before age three, can greatly improve a child's development.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome do not have low intelligence or language problems. In fact, they may have advanced verbal skills. But they can be socially awkward and have trouble understanding nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions. They may focus intensely on one topic that interests them but have trouble making friends or relating to people.
Treatment: Behavior Programs
Behavioral therapies are widely used to help children with ASDs learn to talk and communicate, develop physically, and deal with other people more effectively. Step by step, these intensive programs -- called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) -- encourage positive actions and discourage negative behaviors. Another approach, called Floor time, works on emotions and social skills. The TEACCH program uses picture cards and other visual cues.