1 in 68 Can't Wait: Delays in Autism Diagnosis Are Too Costly

 1 In 68 Cant Wait


Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. Currently 1 in every 68 children has been diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Centers for Disease Control, 2018). According the Centers for Disease Control, a reliable diagnosis by an experienced professional can often be made by age 2, but many children do not receive a diagnosis until they are much older. Research has shown that early intervention services can greatly impact a child's development (Centers for Disease Control, 2018). A delay in diagnosis often leads to extended delays in accessing needed services.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screenings for autism for all children during routine visits at 9, 18, 24 and 30 months (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018). Researchers have found that by 6 months of age there were concerns about the communication and fine motor skills of children later diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and that during their second year these children often exhibited repetitive behaviors, differences in play, imitation, and feeding habits (Bolton, Golding, Emond, & Steer 2012). Many children wait far too long to obtain an accurate diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. They are losing precious time.

Parents, teachers, caregivers and other professionals can help by becoming better informed about "red flags" that may be warning signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Because early childhood professionals spend so much time with the children in their care, they are in a unique position to observe the often subtle warning signs. The use of a developmental checklist, questionnaire or "red flags" tool may provide a crucial first look when concerning behaviors are present. However, we must all remember that an Autism Spectrum Disorder can only be diagnosed by a professional qualified to make a diagnosis such as a pediatrician or psychologist.

Although all children develop at their own rate, there are developmental milestones that most children generally achieve by a given age. "Red flag" indicators may provide information that parents, caregivers, and educators can use to recognize an area of concern. Recognizing that a child may be exhibiting warning signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder may be the first step in accessing quality services that can make a lifetime of difference for the child and his family.

The following "red flags" list has been developed to help you understand what a concerning behavior might look like. It is not to suggest that every child who exhibits one or more of the "red flags" an autism spectrum disorder. That is a decision for a qualified professional, but you might be in a position to suggest further testing and observation when you have a concern.

  • Not responding to their name by 12 months of age
  • Not pointing at objects to show interest (pointing at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not playing "pretend" games (pretending to "feed" a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
  • Having trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Having delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Giving unrelated answers to questions
  • Getting upset by minor changes
  • Having obsessive interests
  • Flapping their hands, rocking their body, or spinning in circles (repetitive behaviors)
  • Having unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, or look

Adapted from the CDC, 2018.


In South Carolina, a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, determined “at risk” for Autism or who have other developmental delays may be eligible to receive services through BabyNet (ages birth to 3) and the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. Caregivers can find additional information at:

Baby Net: http://scdhhs.gov/babynet
South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs: http://www.ddsn.sc.gov 

To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders visit the Centers for Disease Control at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html

By Joyce Kimrey at 27 Nov 2018, 11:00 AM