Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism is a spectrum. You may have heard of Autism, Asperger's Syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) talked about separately. These three conditions, among others, were combined in 2013 under the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is defined as a developmental disability characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The cause of ASD remains unknown.
According to the CDC, one in six children in the United States had a diagnosed developmental disability between 2006 and 2008. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the third most common developmental disorder in early childhood and the average age of diagnosis is four years old. Boys are almost five times more likely than girls to be affected by ASD.
The earlier ASD is diagnosed and intervention begins, the better. By understanding key social, emotional and communication milestones, parents can be alert for subtle differences and red flags that may signal atypical development. A developmental screening is the first step to determine if a child is developing typically. However, only a developmental assessment can determine if there is a delay. Talk with your pediatrician about developmental screening and whether you should contact Chester County’s Early Intervention (EI) team. Your pediatrician may also screen for ASD. A diagnostic evaluation would need to be completed to determine a diagnosis of ASD.
In Chester County, Early Intervention (ages 0-3) and the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) work in partnership as a team. Early Intervention screens all children referred with a tool called the M-CHAT. Those who are identified as at-risk are then referred to the cross-disciplinary Childhood Autism Team CHeck (CATCH) team. Diagnosis is probably the most difficult time in the care of a child for a family receiving a diagnosis of ASD. Expectations are changing and the path ahead is unclear. At a time when they need the most support, the collaborative approach of the CATCH team reduces a lot of stress and anxiety for families.