What to Know About Screening a Child for Autism

Autism Series I: What to Know About Screening a Child for Autism

Autism Series I: What to Know About Screening a Child for Autism

Autism is a complex condition/disorder wherein the individual or child shows challenges in the areas of social skills, communication skills and behaviors. The disorder which falls within the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has a range of symptoms which may vary from child to child.

For parents of young children, knowing when to screen for possibility of Autism is important. However, few of the frequent questions raised by parents about screening include- “When do we need to screen a child for Autism?” ; “How is screening done?” ; “Who conducts it?”; and “Why is it important?”.  This article further describes the responses.

Screening for Autism gives an impression of whether a child’s development indicates ‘red flags’ (i.e. challenges or skills that can be of concern) and whether the child needs to be seen for further detailed assessments.  The screening assessment is different from a diagnostic one.

When do we need to screen the child?

If it is noted that the child is persistently showing difference (including a delay) in behavior/s when compared to his / her typically developing peers, it becomes essential to screen the child as soon as possible. This will help understand whether the child needs further detailed assessments or not.

Who should screen?

Apart from professionals, parent/s or teacher/s can do the screening. It is best, if the adult/s that spend most amount of time with the child and know him / her should conduct or are part of the screening. This will give a true picture of the child’s skill , challenges or delays.

How is screening conducted?

Typically for screening a set of questions are presented. They are directed to understand whether a child has achieved certain skills or not. These questions are focused towards ‘red flags’ or skills that are warning signs for suspected diagnosis of Autism.

Assessing the ‘red flags’ is essential. To know more about the early signs or red flags, read our article

Each skill that is assessed as a ‘red flag’, has an approximate (developmental) age that it should be achieved within.

A generic idea of the skills and at which age they are to be achieved are given below:
  • Smiling to others –  before 6 months
  • Babbling (when a child begins to use sounds of /b/ /m/ /p/) – by 6 months
  • Using gestures to indicate needs such as come, pick up, shake head for no – by one year
  • Saying a meaningful first word – by 14 to 18 months
  • Using phrases – by 2 years

If the child fails on several of these skills – it is crucial to meet a physician for a confirmed diagnosis as early as possible. Reaching out to us (at info@1specialplace.com), will allow you to be guided appropriately.

There are also checklists such as M-CHAT (Modified – Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) available on the internet that can be easily accessed by parents. They will also help screen a child for the possibility of Autism. Several physicians / therapists would use the same as a screening tool, also. However, kindly note that any checklist has some possibility of being incorrect. Therefore, seeking professional assistance before any confirmation is prudent.

If your child fails the screening assessment. Seek an appointment and visit the physician as early as possible. Meeting a developmental peadiatrician or a child psychologist would be ideal. They will assess the child in-depth and provide guidance further. An early diagnosis has become possible by a trained eye.

Early diagnosis and early intervention should not be undermined! They are vital. Seek professional help as early as needed. At times, let your instincts guide you. If you think that child has some delays and differences – visit the physician as soon as possible.

This is the first article on a series on Autism / ASD. Continue reading this series that will give insights on- steps to consider after a confirmed diagnosis of Autism / ASD, therapy and so on.

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Tanushree Chandhok
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