Autism affects 1 in 110 children. The majority are boys. Symptoms may show up before the age of two. The extent can vary greatly but the approach to treatment should be the same.
“The highest potential we think is going to be made by the kids that get the treatment early on,” says Sherri Campbell nurse practitioner with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Determining the type of social disorder is crucial, from a severe, classic autism to the milder Asperger’s syndrome.
“Under the autism spectrum disorder one of the subcategories is Asperger’s syndrome that’s the one that I think is often missed early on,” says Campbell.
A distinguishing feature between the two is speech.
“Asperger’s syndrome there is no speech delay so those are the kids that really might look a little odd with their behaviors or social skills but they really move along nicely in school sometimes and are age appropriate with their development but they just have some socialization issues,” says Campbell.
Classic autism is linked to late speech and less developed social skills.
“If I was really looking for some issues I would look for a lack of eye contact that’s one of the classic hallmarks that associate with autism and that can be seen fairly early on,” says Campbell.
Lee Memorial Health System offers free, monthly screenings for autism. It covers a standardized, developmental checklist, to help parents get a head start on therapy.
“The children with Asperger’s, sometimes they’re not diagnosed until middle school but the children with speech delay in classic autism are easy to identify as early as 18 months,” says Campbell.
The bottom line: if you have any concerns about your child’s development, acting early can make a difference.