Health Wise: Autism Spectrum Disorder - The Importance of Early Detection

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We frequently address the importance of getting mental health services, and have often noted the importance of accurate diagnoses in order to receive the best possible treatment for mental health conditions. We always say that it’s never too late to address mental health concerns. With some conditions, testing and diagnosis are often required to receive support such as medication or school accommodations. Insurance companies have many mental health benefits, but tend to require official diagnoses for certain services.

Today, we want to highlight a neuropsychological condition where people not only benefit from being accurately diagnosed and treated, but specifically benefits from being accurately diagnosed EARLY - Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

When it comes to ASD, early detection is particularly important. Testing can start as early as 1-year-old, and there are many reasons to consider testing at a young age. Here are some important reasons to consider testing a child as soon as any suspicions arise:

  • Some portions of ASD testing include very detailed interpretations of developmental milestones in years 1-5. These questions are easiest to answer for younger children, and details may get lost as a child gets older.
  • Early On services (services for developmental concerns) end at 3 years old, so it is best to get a diagnosis sooner rather than later and utilize this free service for as long as possible.
  • Therapies like Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech Therapy have better outcomes when started earlier, while the brain is younger. Kids who start early tend to build skills faster and need services for less time.
  • The Michigan Autism Program provides children ages 18 months through 5 years with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for those interested.
  • A child who has gone through testing prior to being school-age can enter school with a diagnosis and an individualized education plan, rather than waiting until issues arise in school to begin interventions/accommodations.
  • If ASD is ruled out, services may still be recommended to address the specific needs of the child, such as Speech Therapy, behavioral interventions, or parent training.

Early detection of ASD opens the door for early interventions, which give the child the best chance of picking up skills and receiving the best care possible.

ASD testing is strongly recommended if a child is exhibiting any of the following symptoms at approximately 1.5 - 2 years old:

  • Not speaking
  • Lacking some developmentally appropriate social skills such as eye contact or responding to their name
  • Not showing sufficient signs of attachment/affection to parents or caregivers
  • Trouble communicating non-verbally; expressing needs and reactions
  • Having unexpected reactions to being touched
  • Meltdowns that are confusing or inappropriate to the situation/age
  • Having strange or inconsistent responses to situations

In general, if a child is exhibiting confusing or concerning behaviors or struggling to meet developmental milestones, psychological testing can bring light to any possible concerns and can give parents both peace of mind and resources to help their child be as successful and supported as possible.

It is our intention to bring information about various types of mental health challenges to the community, and we are going to spend the next couple of blogs discussing ASD, including common mis-diagnoses, co-occurring concerns and diagnoses, and positive traits/strengths of individuals with ASD. Keep an eye out!

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