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Study Finds Children are Being Tested for Autism at Earlier Age

Andrea Smardon
Deborah Bilder, University of Utah associate professor of child psychiatry, is second author in the study published online in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics on Dec. 9, 2015.

Children suspected of having autism spectrum disorder are getting tested at a younger age. That’s according to a study conducted in Utah and four other states. The research suggests that a national effort to have kids evaluated when they are younger is working.

The researchers examined health and education records of 4 and 8-year-old children in 2010 who had autism characteristics. They found that the median age of their first evaluation was five months earlier for children born in 2006 compared to children born in 2002. That’s significant progress, according to Dr. Deborah Bilder, University of Utah associate professor of child psychiatry and one of the authors of the study. She says early intervention is critical to help those with autism lead fuller lives.

“It’s the interventions started at the youngest age possible, as soon as they children are identified, that is what is going to lead to the best outcomes,” Bilder says.

The drive to identify children with autism at younger ages gained momentum after a 2007 study estimated that one in 152 U.S. children had the disorder, a marked increase over previous years. Following the study, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended every child be screened for autism at 18 and 24 months.

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