- Posted by Caravel Autism Health
- On August 1, 2019
- 0 Comments
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in very young children are both reliable and stable. The research was led by Karen Pierce, PhD, and colleague Eric Courchesne, PhD, who are both professors of neurosciences at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Pierce is also co-director of the university’s Autism Center of Excellence.
The researchers examined data on 1,269 toddlers who received initial diagnostic evaluations between the ages of 12 and 36 months. These evaluations were conducted by licensed psychologists. Of the children screened, 400 were diagnosed as being on the spectrum. The toddlers were screened again at least six months later. Some toddlers were screened three or more times during the study. What researchers found was that 84% of the toddlers who received an initial diagnosis of autism retained that diagnosis during their final screening.
Pierce and her co-authors concluded that the findings “suggest that an ASD diagnosis becomes stable starting at 14 months of age and overall is more stable than other diagnostic categories, including language or developmental delay. After a toddler is identified as having ASD, there may be a low chance that he or she will test within typical levels at 3 years of age.”
The median age of diagnosis for children with autism in the U.S. is around 4. “This late age of detection is a missed opportunity,” according to the researchers, “given the accelerated pace of brain development that occurs between birth and 3 to 4 years of age.” Pierce’s team concluded that “it’s imperative that we use every effective tool as early as we can to begin treating diagnosed children.”
Caravel’s Eric Lund, PsyD, ABPP, BCBA-D welcomed the new research, which was partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. “These findings match our clinical experience here at Caravel, where we routinely diagnose autism in children by 18 months,” explains Dr. Lund. “This new data is important because it demonstrates that early diagnosis is overwhelmingly accurate. And we know that the earlier a child can be diagnosed, the sooner autism health specialists can begin working with that child to provide life-changing treatment.”
Children who start Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy at the age of 2 or 3 are positioned to make the greatest gains possible, according to Dr. Lund. This early intensive therapy helps retrain neuropathways in the young brain, optimizing brain development and helping children with autism connect with others and improve communication skills. For more information about ABA therapy, please visit https://caravelautism.com/what-is-aba-therapy/.