CHICAGO – The country’s leading pediatricians group is making its strongest push yet to have all children screened for autism twice by age 2, warning of symptoms such as babies who don’t babble at 9 months and 1-year-olds who don’t point to toys.
The advice is meant to help both parents and doctors spot autism sooner. There is no cure for the disorder, but experts say that early therapy can lessen its severity.
Symptoms to watch for and the call for early screening come in two new reports. They were released by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday at its annual meeting in San Francisco and will appear in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics and on the group’s Web site – www.aap.org/.
The reports list numerous warning signs, such as a 4-month-old not smiling at the sound of a parent’s voice, or the loss of language or social skills at any age.
Experts say one in 150 U.S. children have the troubling developmental disorder.
The academy’s renewed effort reflects growing awareness since its first autism guidelines in 2001. A 2006 policy statement urged autism screening for all children at their regular doctor visits at age 18 months and 24 months.
The authors caution that not all children who display a few of these symptoms are autistic and they said parents shouldn’t overreact to quirky behavior.
Another educational tool, a Web site that debuted in mid-October, offers dozens of video clips of autistic kids contrasted with unaffected children’s behavior. That Web site – www.autismspeaks.org/ – is sponsored by two nonprofit advocacy groups: Autism Speaks and First Signs. They hope the site will promote early diagnosis and treatment to help children with autism lead more normal lives.