Early Autism Diagnosis May Not be Such a Great Thing

Sasha Brown-Worsham

The average age of diagnosis for an autistic child is currently five, but a new method of detection could shorten that by four years, allowing parents far more time to come to terms with the diagnosis and learn how to manage it. Toddlers could be diagnosed as early as 1-year-old. But is this a good thing?

Researchers studying autistic children have discovered their brain activity appears to be out of sync much earlier than anyone realized. In autistic toddlers, the language areas in the right and left sides of the brain are less synchronized. The weaker the synchronization, the more severe the communication difficulties exhibited by the child.

For parents who are seeking answers to developmental delays, this could prove revolutionary.

Of course, no one wants to hear that their perfect child has any issues at all, but the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier parents can research and learn what it will mean for the future to have a child on the spectrum. Right?

Of course, it could also be wrong. I know it is very different, but when my son was 15 months, he was still not walking and early intervention got involved. They helped him start walking and I loved them, but it was a stressful few months. I could have avoided them by just allowing my son to unfold on his own.

He also has a strange tick that he does when he is excited where he throws his arms out, flaps them and opens his mouth wide. For a few months, I was worried about that, too. Certainly, it would have been nice to rule out autism with a brain scan, but what if it hadn't? It seems to me that babies grow and change and scans tell us things that may or may not be correct. As it is, children are diagnosed at an age where they have started to show the signs. At one they likely seem like all babies.

Maybe the scan would reveal the truth, but as a parent, I guess I would rather my child reveal who he is to me. I guess I am having trouble seeing the benefit of knowing earlier. Sure, it would take some guesswork out and we would be better prepared for the challenges ahead, but even after a brain scan, I imagine I would still hold out hope that it was wrong and I am not sure what, if anything, I would do right away. I could see knocking a few years off the diagnosis might be relieving, but 1-year-old just seems way, way too early to be making such diagnoses.

Do you think early diagnosis is better?


Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr

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