There are many controversies surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but At what age should autism be diagnosed in children? It is one of the most frequently asked questions, although it is, in turn, the one that has the most differences between the health personnel in charge, say psychologists or doctors trained for this purpose. This article we want to put a little light on all the theories. Basically the difficulty is that its finding is not in the simplicity of a blood or imaging test. Collecting a number of clinical features is required to reach this important conclusion.
Until about 2 to 3 years ago, an average age for diagnosis was maintained at 5 to 6 years, some even maintained that it was between 6-7 years, a criterion that has been changing today due to the concern presented by parents who they see characteristics of the condition at an earlier age. This has favored many specialists to shorten the average age to 3 years and a few maintain that 5 years is the best time to make a diagnosis.
However, we have already seen that the clinical signs of autism basically begin to show in the first months of life (12 or 18 months of life or, even earlier, 3-6-9 months) in the vast majority of cases. This has been emphasized by a significant number of fathers, mothers, caregivers, family members and teachers, who allude to having discussed it with their pediatricians, but the response they get from them is that 'they must wait until it is bigger'.
The age for diagnosis has been decreasing because every day there is more evidence of the high prevalence of the condition, where already 1 in 54 children is diagnosed with autism, according to the figure just published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in March 2020 (in 2018 it was 1 for every 59 children).
Another factor, undoubtedly, are the comorbidities associated with ASD, that is, functional differences in various systems, primarily gastrointestinal, immune, metabolic or neurological. If not addressed in time, they can skew the favorable prognosis of the person with autism.
Another factor that influences slowing down or slowing down the speed and age at diagnosis of autism is the lack of knowledge of the main diagnostic psychological tests for ASD where, for example, the ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnosis Observation Scale, second edition) can be applied to children as young as 12 months of age and the CARS is from 2 years of age.
Many studies (and reports from parents) highlight that between 12 and 18 months is when more forceful symptoms that warn or even establish Autism Spectrum Disorder can emerge, so the balance is tilting at these ages to emphasize the signs of alarm or conclude the diagnosis, of course denoting the diversity of presentation of this condition, where some boys or girls will present more exacerbated behaviors than others.
However, while the scientists come to an agreement, there are important aspects to consider:
- Health professionals need to train even more about autism in all ranges of presentation, since the basic triad of signs such as communication - social interaction - flexibility and imagination every day adds elements inside and outside of it.
- Do not tell parents that they should 'wait' or what they notice 'is going to happen' without doing anything about it. Although there may be a fear of diagnosing, the professional must focus on the warning signs and, if necessary, refer or refer to experts in the field to channel an effective action plan to address that difference.
- Follow up on the case. In autism, depending on external factors and the level of functioning, some characteristics become more evident in school age and adolescence.
- To the parents, If you see red flags in your children, seek out autism specialists, but carefully, since unfortunately there are no exclusive medical or psychological postgraduate degrees for ASD and there are, unfortunately, many who take advantage of the situation. They must be serious professionals with origins in their scientific training from recognized centers and universities.
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