In testing for autism Primary Health Care Providers often use a screening tool called CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) between 18 and 24 months. It aims to identify children at high risk of social-communication differences such as autism. Some parents find it helpful to fill out the questionnaire and talk it though with their Health Visitor or GP.
It is unusual for Health Professionals to diagnose autism before the age of two years, although many parents report they have seen signs long before this. One large UK study gave the average age of diagnosis as over 5 years old.1
Many parents worry about their children being labelled and that label perhaps causing issues for them in the future. Whilst it is understandable that families may be concerned, nevertheless, all the research shows early support is likely to produce the best outcomes for autistic children.
“There is nothing as ongoing and heartbreaking as having to push to get a doctor to tell you the news you do not want to hear”. This is what Federay, the mother of Pascal, said about getting a diagnosis. Her experience was fairly typical.
1. Howlin P. and Asgharian A. (1999). The diagnosis of autism and asperger syndrome: findings from a survey of 770 families, Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 1999, 41, pp834-839