Before you convince yourself that your two- or three-year-old child may be autistic, please read the following article.
Autism boom: an epidemic of disease or of discovery?
Next, talk to your pediatrician. If the pediatrician determines that your child needs to be evaluated, she/he will refer your child to a developmental pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist. When you speak to the pediatrician, make certain to mention any complications that arose during your pregnancy or the birth process. Some difficult births are associated with certain neurological problems that can be handled with medications and minimal special services for your child, and chances are extremely good that your child will outgrow the neurological problem before the age of seven.
The point is this: When attentional and hyperactivity disorders (ADD and ADHD, respectively) first began to appear in the media during the early 1970s, the proportion of diagnosed cases increased astronomically. It is not uncommon for general pediatricians to either misdiagnose, or to defer to a parent’s frustrations over normal inquisitiveness and simple tendency to enjoy running, jumping, climbing, and other activities that drive parents nuts. True hyperactivity is when a child is never able to stop him/herself until physical exhaustion occurs. However, only a qualified developmental, neurological, or related specialty pediatrician can diagnose the child’s activity/attention level and determine whether the child is within normal limits or truly has ADD or ADHA.
The same applies to autism. Although early intervention is always welcome, even in some milder cases of developmental problems that children tend to outgrow, the initial diagnosis by a specialist is paramount to appropriate care. No parent wants a child to receive unnecessary medications.
Before settling on a course of treatment for a diagnosed child, make certain to get a second–even a third–opinion. Make sure to ask all your questions–make a list before you see the general pediatrician and add to it as you speak to specialists–about your child’s symptoms, test results, etc. Once you have settled on a specialist, make certain to make your child’s and your own needs a top priority for any treatment program that is recommended. No one knows your child like you do. Your input is valuable, and should be an integral part of whatever treatment program may be recommended. Remember that your input is also helpful in determining whether your child should be “labeled” autistic. Labels follow children around for many years, and may become a source of more gradual social withdrawal on their own.
The following list comes from some of the best sources of knowledge available on autism. Use them as reference, or to guide you to additional sound information. There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet, so you want to start with the best sources so that you can evaluate other sources.
National Institute of Health: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:
National Institute of Mental Health:
PediatricNeurology.com has an excellent article called “Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Sorting It Out”:
From the CDC (Center for Disease Control):
From the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:
Best wishes for your child, you, and your family in determining whether your child is truly autistic!