In 2022, the earliest age at which a diagnosis of autism can be made will be 6 years old. This is according to the CDC and WHO’s latest guidelines for diagnosing ASD in children. What does it mean for parents? It means that early intervention is key to helping kids live happier lives.
The “at roughly what age can a child be diagnosed with autism” is the question that we are trying to answer. There are no official statistics, so this is difficult to find out.
Autism is a developmental illness that is diagnosed based on behaviors and developmental milestones rather than genetic or physiological indicators, unlike other developmental disorders.
Because newborns and toddlers’ behavior changes so quickly, detecting indicators of autism at such an early age may be difficult. Pediatricians often begin screening children for autism at the age of one year and continue until they are around three years old.
Autism symptoms might appear as early as 6 months old or as late as 4 years old. The majority of children with autism are identified around the age of two, when their symptoms “stabilize.”
Autism & Early Childhood Diagnosis
Autism is a developmental disease that is diagnosed based on behavioral abnormalities between neurotypical and autistic people. Changes to diagnostic criteria in manuals such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) assist clinicians and counselors better spot autistic symptoms and refer their clients for treatment as medical knowledge of autism develops.
While some individuals with autism are not diagnosed until they are in their teens or age, the majority of persons with autism are now diagnosed when they are young. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indications of autism are most effectively detected by the age of two. Some children, however, might be diagnosed as young as 18 months.
Clinicians report a wide variety of diagnostic ages in their patients. Some children with mild to severe communication or socialization difficulties may not exhibit indicators of difficulty until they are toddlers or older children.
Understanding Your Child’s Milestones in Development
A chart of developmental milestones is kept by medical experts who deal with children and study childhood development. While each kid will achieve these milestones at their own pace, physicians may use this information to assist parents understand that certain phases of development are typical, when they will occur, and how to best support their child throughout these periods.
If their kid does not develop specific abilities, such as walking or speaking, at a given age, parents may grow anxious. If they see learning plateaus, they may be worried. These might be typical growth stages for the kid, or they could indicate a failure to meet developmental goals. Learning regressions or reaching a learning or skills plateau might be signs that a kid has autism.
Autism symptoms may appear as early as 6 months of age. Typically, newborns reach this developmental milestone by:
- Recognize familiar faces and determine whether or not someone is unknown.
- Playing interactive games with others, particularly parents and siblings, is a lot of fun.
- Face expressions are used to respond to other people’s emotions.
- They like staring at other people’s faces, especially their own.
- Start with producing sounds and linking them together to make words.
- Begin by saying consonants.
- To express delight or dissatisfaction, use noises other than sobbing.
- Show an interest in their environment and other people.
A child at risk for autism may exhibit the following indicators between the ages of 12 and 24 months:
- Using strange voice tones or rambling in a strange vocal register.
- Sensitivity to specific stimuli, particularly sounds or sensations, that is unusual.
- They carry things about with them for a long time but do not play with them.
- Hand or body movements that are unusual.
- Insufficient physical activity.
- They are only interested in playing with their toys and not with their parents or siblings.
- When agitated, it’s tough to calm down.
- Not being able to recognize faces or make eye contact.
These are significant social, cognitive, and communicative changes. It’s normal for parents to be concerned if their kid begins to take these milestones and then falters, or if the child never takes them at all. Symptoms of autism, on the other hand, are common to appear or disappear around the age of six months and to repeat this pattern for the following year or two. Around the age of two, the signs of autism become stable, and a diagnosis may be made.
Autism Screening vs. Diagnosis
Your doctor can help you understand your child’s development and then monitor for indications of autism if you are worried about his or her growth, particularly if there is a family history of autism. Observing symptoms is not the same as diagnosing the illness.
In a 2019 research on early symptoms of autism, 1,200 children who had at least two developmental assessments between the ages of 12 months and 36 months were questioned (3 years). Only 2% of toddlers who were initially suspected of having autism were later determined to be on the spectrum; conversely, 24 percent of toddlers who were not suspected of having autism received an autism diagnosis. Autism “stability” was determined to be approximately 50% around the child’s first birthday, according to the research. By 14 months, the accuracy had increased to 80%.
Timeline for Diagnosis
If your kid begins to exhibit developmental issues around the age of 6 months or one year, your doctor may begin to watch them for continuing indications of autism. Keeping note of these changes at your child’s regular visits, on the other hand, is screening, not diagnosis.
Screening does not indicate that your kid has or will develop autism. If your kid is on the autism spectrum and your physician checks them for signs now, you may seek evidence-based therapy for them after their developmental status stabilizes. Early intervention is critical for your child’s long-term development and success.
Severe autistic signs may be detected as early as a child’s first birthday, although this is uncommon. It’s probable that the kid has a developmental disability, such as autism or another ailment, if they never make eye contact, show little interest in their surroundings, or make no noises.
Monitor your child’s development with your physician and seek appropriate behavioral therapy and other treatment as required. This treatment is critical for your child’s long-term management of symptoms.
People with moderate autism symptoms, on the other hand, may not get a diagnosis until they are adolescents or adults. They may exhibit more subtle signs, such as difficulty understanding idioms or sarcasm. Even if they don’t establish eye contact as youngsters, they will nevertheless interact with people. They may be able to speak and study at a high level, yet they seldom mingle.
While some patients will go without a necessary diagnosis, this will become less prevalent in 2021. More children are being identified and receiving required behavior treatment as diagnostic criteria improve and more physicians regularly test for autism.
Early Diagnosis of Autism Helps Children & Their Families
Many parents are concerned about their children’s growth but are confused how to best assist them. You may begin working with an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapist if your kid is monitored for autism and subsequently diagnosed with the disorder around the age of two. This specialist can assist your kid with learning new words and forming phrases, as well as improving emotional control and behavior management.
The sooner your kid can begin this treatment, the better. Early therapy for children with autism is linked to improved long-term outcomes, according to several studies.
Pediatricians will be more likely to test all of their patients for autism in 2021. Parents may not detect some autism signs because they are mild or varied. These early tests are critical for ensuring that instances of autism are identified and formally diagnosed early, so that appropriate therapies may be provided.
Families benefit from these exams because they can better understand their child’s health and assist their growth. Parents and siblings of children with autism may get assistance so that they can better support their kid. All of this translates to enhanced interpersonal interactions, more personal self-esteem, and a stronger family unit.
Consult your child’s physician if you observe any indications of autism in your infant or toddler. These indicators may be part of your child’s normal growth process in some situations, but they might also be signs of autism in others. You may keep track of these indications as your kid develops with the aid of your doctor.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening and Diagnosis (In March of 2020). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).
Developmental Milestones from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (As of December 2019) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).
Your Baby at Six Months is an Important Milestone. (As of December 2019) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).
Autism Has 22 Early Warning Signs. (March 15, 2015) UC San Diego Health is a public university in San Diego, California.
Is It Possible to Diagnose Autism at a Young Age? (February 2013). Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about
Starting at 12 months, researchers looked at the diagnostic stability of the early autism spectrum disorder phenotype in the general population. (Updated April 2019) Pediatrics, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Autism Treatment Starts Early. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is named after Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Explaining Early Interventions (Updated in October 2018). Spectrum.
Autism in Babies: Early Symptoms Parents.com.
Looking for the First Signs of Autism (April 2013). Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about
The “who can diagnose autism in a child” is an important question to answer. The earliest age that autism can be diagnosed at, is 2020.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.