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Autism Early Intervention: November 26, 2011

An autism diagnosis is not something any parent wants to hear, but in many cases they need to hear it in order to get their children proper treatment.

“There’s a big spectrum of autism disorders. 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 Sherri Campbell, a nurse practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.

Experts find early intervention is key in helping a child reach their potential. In addition to social awkwardness, many children who land within the spectrum have other developmental issues that can be lessened with therapy.

“Speech therapy and maybe some occupational therapy where they work with sensory issues like maybe they don’t like the way things feel, they don’t like to walk in grass or sand or they’re really picky eaters, they’ll only eat certain texture foods. Those types of children, if we can get occupational therapy and some speech therapy it can be dramatic,” says Campbell.

A thorough autism screening considers a lot of information. From a questionnaire completed by parents to developmental testing of the child, even the baby’s birth weight could be a factor.

Lee Memorial Health System offers free monthly autism screenings for children ages 18 months to five years old.

“We encourage any parent to bring their child because I think it gives you piece of mind just to have a your child screened. We’re not making a diagnosis; we’re merely identifying if a child would need some further investigation,” says Campbell.

Finding out sooner rather than later can make a lasting impact on your child.