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Thus far we have spent all of our time discussing autism signs and the importance of getting your child screened. I stand by my firm belief that at anytime you notice any of the signs of autism in your child that you should have them screened by a professional. However, I came across information just this week that I think deserves our attention: Children receiving false positives for autism.
When first I read this information, I was stunned. False positives? What? Really? I asked myself “Does this happen often?” However, once I researched more information, it made perfect sense to me. The primary characteristic of autism according to a study published in The Journal of Mental Retardation is the inability to engage, interact, and communicate meaningfully with parents and other familiar caregivers. The secondary characteristics include other atypical characteristics such as:
- over reacting to light, sound, and other stimuli,
- hand flapping,
- and walking on toes.
While the secondary characteristics are generally present with the primary characteristic of autism, just having secondary characteristics is not cause for a diagnosis of autism. When clinicians diagnose a child with autism, often they are basing their diagnosis on autism signs that are a secondary characteristic. This happens especially when two or three of those secondary characteristics are present in a child during the same evaluation. As we have stated before, each child reaches developmental milestones at their own time and pace. Being just shy of the norm is not a great cause for alarm.
The secondary characteristics of autism can be indicators of other developmental issues that the child may be experiencing. These include:
- motor delays,
- language or speech delays,
- regulatory sensory processing challenges (the uneven processing of sensations such as sight or sound),
- immature motor system,
- or other developmental delays or challenges.
My opinion is that if you notice autism signs in your child that you should seek screening from a professional. However, I do not believe that screening should be a one time, fifteen or twenty minute trip or even the infamous 5 minute checklist that has received so much media attention here lately. A proper diagnosis will require toe clinician to really get to know the child and be aware of how the child functions in their home as well as in other settings such as a day care or in a clinical setting. Diagnosis should be long term, with clinicians observing the child with their parent or caregiver in a comfortable setting. Home visits should be a part of diagnosis and even video of the child interacting with parents and caregivers should be made to give to the clinician. Even though an initial diagnosis of autism may be made for the child, after observation the diagnosis may change, allowing for more appropriate interventions to happen.
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