By: Miami Children’s Hospital
Autism and Early Intervention
Approximately one in every 88 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. As families learn of a child’s diagnosis, they can gain hope from the knowledge that early identification of affected children can help lessen the impact of this developmental disorder, thus significantly improving a child’s overall quality of life.
“Autism spectrum disorders are a heterogeneous group of complex developmental disorders that appear within a child’s first three years of life,” explains Dr. Roberto Tuchman, Director of the Autism and Neurodevelopment Program, at the Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center, which provides early diagnosis and interventions for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders.
“For parents, knowing the developmental milestones that take place during a baby’s first 18 months of life is crucial, as this can help with identifying signs of autism spectrum disorders or other developmental conditions,” said Dr. Tuchman. As a developmental disorder appearing in the first 3 years of life, autism affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. There are many different causes of autism spectrum disorders. As part of the neurological work-up, a neurologist may order genetic testing, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain or an electroencephalogram (EEG).
The Early Signs
Parents of autistic children are commonly the first ones to suspect something is “different” about their child. Frequently they have concerns by the time the baby is 2 years old. Treatment can be helpful at any age, however scientific studies have demonstrated that early intervention can ensure optimal outcomes for children with developmental disorders.
“There is no medical test to diagnose autism,” says Dr. Tuchman, “that’s why identifying its early symptoms is so helpful in getting children the proper medical attention.” He noted, “Children with autism often miss major milestones or are delayed in some skills, such as the ability to follow and react to faces, responding to name, pointing, and sharing their excitement with others.” Additionally, children with autism often have difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and pretend play. Some children with autism may appear without symptoms before age 1 or 2 and then suddenly “regress” and lose language or social skills they had previously gained. The important point is to seek advice from your pediatrician early if there is any concern about a child’s development.
Studies show that interventions starting as early as 18 months can help improve a child’s ability to interact appropriately with their environment, and develop language and social skills. Parents are encouraged to identify a facility specializing in early recognition and intervention of autism spectrum disorders. An early comprehensive team approach to autism spectrum disorders and other neurodevelopmental conditions will have a positive impact on every child’s developmental trajectory.
The Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient was developed as a partnership between the Dan Marino Foundation and Miami Children’s Hospital to provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of children with special needs.
Since this center’s inception in 1998, it has grown rapidly and is now providing neurological and developmental services to children throughout South Florida as well as South America and Europe. Conveniently located in Weston, the center is comprised of outpatient evaluation and treatment professionals serving the healthcare needs of children, adolescents and young adults from birth through 21 years of age. Pediatric rehabilitation, diagnostics (x-ray), general pediatrics and subspecialty consultations are also available.
For more information on autism or to learn about the services offered at the MCH Dan Marino Outpatient Center, visit www.mch.com/DanMarinoOutpatientCenter