Early Development & Well Being, Parent Support & Resources

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Early Diagnosis, Early Support

In the first five years of your child’s life, there are many milestones that they should reach to make sure they are growing and thriving. When these milestones aren’t reached, it can be a sign of a developmental or neurological condition like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which affects communication, learning, and behavior in all stages of life.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, ASD affects about 1 in 44 children, and it is recommended that all children should be screened for ASD at their 18- and 24-month well-child checkups. Children as young as 9 months can show signs of ASD according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These early signs can include:

  • Reduced eye contact
  • Indifference to caregivers
  • Lack of response to their name (around 6-9 months)

However, other children may meet these milestones normally, but around age two begin to:

  • Lose language skills they already had
  • Become withdrawn or aggressive
  • Display unusual body or hand movements
  • Seem overly fussy or difficult to soothe

It’s important to remember that these are just a small selection of signs that your child could have ASD. “Spectrum” is included in this diagnosis because there are so many ways ASD can present itself. Your child should be evaluated by a medical professional to rule out other conditions.

The CDC states that “As children with ASD become adolescents and young adults, they may have difficulties developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected in school or on the job.” An early diagnosis for your child can also help you know what to expect and how to best support them as they transition through these different stages of life. A solid support network is vital to the development of any child, but especially so for one who is diagnosed with ASD.

The above (and other) signs do not necessarily mean your child has ASD, but you should always work with your medical provider to determine the best plan for your family. If your child is diagnosed with ASD, this gives you a chance to start a support plan early in their life to make sure they are thriving as they grow, and it can help give you peace of mind that your child has the tools they need as they transition through different life stages.

Santa Clara County offers many resources to help you and your child learn more about ASD. Here is another list of resources for families in and around Santa Clara County.