• Autism topped President Obama’s 24-point medical agenda, calling for increased funding, and screenings for all infants.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for all children to be screened for autism twice before the age of two.
• The Center for Disease Control’s report on the incidence of autism: 1 in every 110 children; 1 in every 70 boys is diagnosed with a disorder on the Autism Spectrum. [And a recent study from South Korea suggests even higher incidences. -Ed.]
The rise in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders is alarming and real. Early diagnosis means early treatment, and replicated empirical research clearly indicates the importance of starting treatment as early as possible in a child’s development for the best possible outcome. Calling upon an autism expert to provide an appropriate diagnostic evaluation is as essential as consulting with a cardiologist for one’s heart. Only the trained eye will appropriately identify the spectrum of symptomology that may be present; while taking another route (i.e., a pediatrician) often results in the typical “wait and see” approach or the dismissal of parental concerns. Children who are misdiagnosed or do not receive appropriate early intervention miss out on the critical period of time during which the brain is malleable and recovery is possible.
Independent evaluations eliminate the concern of bias that exists when the provider of the assessment and recommendations for services is tied directly to the funding source. Comprehensive assessments (verbal/non-verbal cognition, neuro-psychological and executive functioning, language, problem solving, social skills, attention, memory, and adaptive behavior) provide invaluable insight into the child’s unique areas of strength and challenge. Observations of school placements and home intervention programs are also conducted, with parent/provider interviews. The assessment results provide individualized goals and recommendations for the intervention program and school placement, and baseline data by which progress may be measured annually.