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What is the screening process for autism?

Screening for autism should be done for any child who has a delay or issue with language or social interaction. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened at 18 and 24 months. The process involves many different screening tools. Usually it involves a questionnaire for the child's parent(s), made up of yes and no questions. If any of the answers are abnormal or concerning, you and your healthcare provider may wish to further look into the possibility of autism.
At 18 and 24 months, we do a questionnaire called an M-CHAT, which is a very useful screening tool to evaluate the social development of children to make sure that it's normal. Abnormal social development as cued in by these screening tools is a red flag for possible autism, although it's not always the diagnosis. It's a kid that we're very interested in and we'll further work up. That is done twice on every kid.

Autism is difficult because there are lots of versions of autism. Some are earlier onset and more obvious, some are later, some children seem to be developing quite normally and then have a change. So the spectrum of autism makes it a little bit difficult to diagnose. For the most part, around 18 or 24 months, you're going to see changes or abnormal development in kids that makes it easier to diagnose at that time, and earlier enough that we can prompt treatment for them.

In addition to that, we're always sort of screening for developmental issues with kids really from birth to when they leave our practice down the road. But that's the formal autism screening that we do.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.