Autism, till very recently, was considered as a lifelong disability and was repeated in almost all definitions of the ailment. Diagnosis was thus purposely delayed even if all the symptoms were there. The reason was to ensure that the children were stable at the time of diagnosis and don’t change over time. In many cases diagnosis was delayed for years.
Lately, there has been increasing evidence negating the belief that autism is life-long. Studies have shown that many children diagnosed with autism, no longer require therapy and don’t meet the diagnostic criteria any further.
A recent data analysis of 18,500 autistic children revealed that those diagnosed before five are more likely to have experienced developmental and health concerns when they were barely nine months old, than the ones not within the autism spectrum. By the age of three, the children had more communication, motor and sensory problems, and worsening social and emotional health.
Findings of the importance and appropriateness of an early diagnosis have been confirmed in various studies carried out on kids having siblings with autism. These kids are considered prone to developing autism and many of them showed signs like lack of social engagement and repetitive behaviors.
The damaging long-term fallout of a late autism diagnosis and lack of prompt intervention has been highlighted in several studies. Most of the adults having autism, were diagnosed as late as when they were six years old, have a largely constant IQ by the time they are over 40. Almost a quarter of these adults can’t be assessed because they don’t develop language skills above that of three-year olds and also engage in self-injurious and aggressive behaviors. This is diametrically opposite to the outcome of early applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy conducted in the US.
The prevalence of autism in the US is around 3.5 percent among 12-year olds. ABA therapy isn’t always available. So what chances do these children have when they become 40-year olds?
Most autistic children grow into adults with autism and the challenges increase with the passing years. Much needs to be done for enhancing their capabilities as well as improve their quality of life by early diagnosis and intensive care. Delaying the diagnosis because of dated and ill-reasoned ideas is not an option anymore.