Over the last two weeks I have heard at least half a dozen times, that a child was put on the watchful waiting list before an evaluation or diagnosis would be made. These were all children ages 3-6 years of age suspected of being in the autism spectrum. The families were told that preschool or simply speech therapy once a week may be enough to meet their child’s needs.
We know that one child in every 110 is in the autism spectrum. We know that early identification and intervention provides the best outcomes. So why are we waiting on these children. The American Academy of Pediatrics came out in 2007 recommending that ALL children 18-36 months should be screened for autism at well child visits. If the screen is positive, further evaluation should be done to determine why the child was positive.
By age 3, a child in the spectrum has a high risk of developing poor coping strategies. He has a high risk of being kicked out of childcare settings due to behavioral meltdowns secondary to social emoti
onal communication problems, sensory problems, and restricted narrow interests that impair his functioning in his daily settings. The more he gets removed from different settings, the more stressed his family becomes, putting him at risk for aversive behavioral management techniques, inappropriate medications being prescribed, and/or verbal and physical abuse.
We need to be proactive with our children. Provide them with the interventions and accommodations from early on so that they can learn, develop skills of competence and responsibility, and be emotionally stable. The longer we wait, the more likely they will become part of the statistics of mental health problems, school dropout, and under or unemployment. We either pay it up front or pay a lot more years later. We need to learn how to choose wisely.