In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism. Autism rates increased 23% from 2006 to 2008. A part of the increase could be attributed to the broader definitions of autism and earlier identification. The latest findings emphasize the need for diagnosis and treatment prior to the age of 6 when treatment is known to be the most effective. Research is also indicating that its possible to reverse autism symptoms in some infants and toddlers or, more commonly, decrease the severity of the symptoms.
Dr. Rogers stated, “The hope is that if we can improve intervention with infants and toddlers, many of them will be able to leave their disabilities behind by age 5.” Experts can reliably diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children from 12 to 18 months old by examining their social deficits or repetitive actions. The trajectory of the disorder is unpredictable. In children under 2 1/2, providers should not treat the ASD as a lifetime diagnosis. Providers are able to offer great optimism to parents that the child will move out of the autism spectrum or improve. Unfortunately, other children with ASD regress and this can occur regardless of whether the child receives treatment or not.
Researchers struggle with identifying the exact causes of ASD. 15 to 20% of cases, autism is caused by a genetic mutation. Environmental factors can increase genetic susceptibility. The following risk factors have been identified:
- Older fathers
- Low birth weight or small for gestational age
- Deficiency in folic acid intake before conception
- Mother’s exposure to pesticide
- Mother’s exposure to air pollution
- Obesity in mother
- Lack of interaction
- Not initiating or responding to cuddling
- Not responding to one’s name by 9 months of age
TIP: Early intervention is critical to prevent regression of communication and social skills (Monitor on Psychology, October).
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Rancho Santa Fe 92067 area.