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Screen kids for autism

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For many years, physicians and other health-care providers have included developmental exams as part of well-child checkups. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all pediatricians screen children around 2 years of age for autism.

Children with autism have a wide spectrum of behaviors from mild peculiarities to severe developmental challenges. They may seem to "live in another world," giving little eye contact or having poor social and communication skills. Starting treatment as early as possible may improve a child's abilities, though this may not always be the case.

All parents with children 2 and under should make sure that their child has routine well-child checkups, including a screening for autism. They should also ensure that their child reaches the following speech milestones:

Babbling, pointing or other gestures by 12 months.

Single words by 16 months.

Spontaneous (not just repeating) two-word phrases by 24 months.

If a child loses language or social skills at any age, parents should consult a health-care provider for a developmental assessment and autism screening.

The Utah Department of Health's Baby Watch Early Intervention Program at 1-800-961-4226 or 1-801-584-8226 provides free developmental assessments for all children less than 3 years of age. Children who have significant delays in their development may qualify for free early intervention services. Services are even provided in the home. When a child turns 3, he or she may be eligible for services through local school districts.

Vanya Mabey