Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability which affects social skills, communication, and behavior in about one-in-54 children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for ASD at their 18-months and 24-months well-child checkups. Research shows that starting an intervention program as soon as possible can improve outcomes for children with autism. Since most children with ASD will sit, crawl, and walk on time, delays in social and communication skills during their first year of life may be inevident.
Doctors use a book called “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition” (DSM-5) to assist in diagnosing ASD. Previously, only children with the most severe ASD symptoms were diagnosed, but in 2013, the diagnostic criteria for ASD changed. This change was based on the research literature and clinical experience in the 19-years since the DSM-IV was published in 1994. Now, children with milder symptoms are being identified and helped. Each child with ASD has different needs; the sooner ASD is identified, the sooner an early intervention program directed at the child's symptoms can begin.
In addition, children with ASD may have other medical problems that need further evaluation and treatment. These may include: seizures, problems with sleep, gastrointestinal problems (e.g., feeding problems, abdominal pain, constipation, & diarrhea), and behavioral health problems such as anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, irritability, and aggression. Some of these medical conditions may place children with ASD at increased risk for more severe illness and complications from COVID-19.
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