Fort Myers ABA therapy

New Early Autism Testing May Help Kids Get ABA Therapy Sooner

It’s well-established that the sooner a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the earlier they can begin interventions like ABA therapy – and thus the more positive their long-term prognosis. It’s the reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all kids 18 to 30 months be screened for autism. A diagnosis before the age of 2.5 is linked to considerable improvement in social symptoms – most likely because the younger the child, the greater the brain’s plasticity and behavioral flexibility.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports the rate of autism prevalence has more than tripled in recent years – from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 54 in 2021. Much of this likely has to do with better diagnostic tools. We’re getting better at catching it – and there is less stigma with a diagnosis, so parents are more open to beginning early interventions, such as ABA therapy.

FOCUS Therapy provides Fort Myers ADOS testing for autism. This is a well-established, effective assessment for determining autism risk. (It’s not a matter of “pass” or “fail,” but rather a tool pediatric neurologists, developmental specialists, and psychiatrists rely on when deciding whether an autism diagnosis is appropriate.) We can conduct ADOS testing on kids as young as 12 months, though most are issued somewhere between 18 months and 4 years.

“By the time we get to age 4, so much brain development has already happened,” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jen Voltz-Ronco, also a speech therapist. “Our goal is always to catch it as early as humanly possible.”

Now, there is new – potentially ground-breaking – research indicating other screening tools might have the ability to flag autism risk factors even sooner.

One of those is in the early stages of development – a first-of-its-kind analysis that purports to identify autism risk markers from a single strand of hair – just one centimeter in length. This is exciting because if it proves effective, it could help identify autism in children while they’re still just a few months old – before they even miss any developmental milestones.

Created by a company called LinusBio, it doesn’t yet have federal approval. And like the ADOS test, it wouldn’t be the final word on a diagnosis. Rather, it could be used to aid physicians in diagnostics It would flag exposure to certain metals and other substances (usually during the third trimester of pregnancy) that have been associated with higher autism risk.

Research recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Medicine showed that it accurately predicted autism in 81 percent of the babies it tested. Researchers say they’re hoping this technology could be fine-tuned to allow for even greater accuracy so that kids can begin early intervention treatments like ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy even sooner.

A second promising study by researchers at Duke University revealed an algorithm created from children’s health records could flag autism risk as early as a baby’s first month of life. Study authors say infants who are diagnosed with autism often have very different early health care patterns than neurotypical children. The condition is characterized by difficulties with communication and behaviors, but babies who are later diagnosed with autism often have much higher rates of issues with gastrointestinal systems, gross motor development, sleep, and vision. These patterns – which were analyzed in the medical records of some 45,000 children over the course of five years – were assessed by this new algorithm to identify autism risk very early with astonishing accuracy. That doesn’t necessarily mean a 1-month-old will be diagnosed, but it will give parents and physicians an idea of that child’s relative risk – so that the ball can get rolling on the earliest interventions possible.

If you think your child may have autism, it is best not to wait-and-see. Early intervention is essential – and we can help! FOCUS provides ADOS testing for autism, as well as ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

FOCUS Therapy offers ABA therapy and ADOS testing to children in Lee County, Florida.

Additional Resources:

A new test for autism hopes to help doctors diagnose before symptoms show, Jan. 5, 2023, By Evan Bush, NBC News

More Blog Entries:

How ABA Therapy Can Help Kids, Feb. 6, 2023, Fort Myers ABA therapy Blog

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