Your child's pediatric primary health care provider will start screening your baby for signs of developmental or communication challenges like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at his or her very first well-child visit.
They observe how your baby giggles, looks to you for reassurance, tries to regain your attention during a conversation, points or waves, responds to his or her name, and cries. It is those observations―in combination with family history, health examinations, and parents' perspectives―that help pediatric primary health care providers identify children at risk for ASD.
Screening isn't diagnosing!
It's important to note that screening isn't diagnosing.
If your child has a positive screen for an ASD, it doesn't mean he or she will be diagnosed on the spectrum.
If Autism is Suspected, What's Next?
If your child screens normally but you continue to worry about ASD, don't be shy. Screening tests are just that—screening—and don't identify all children with ASD.
The rate of success for the M-CHAT -R/F, for example, is not 100%, so it is used in combination with health and family history to identify children at risk. Your opinions as a parent are irreplaceable and of the most importance.
If you are concerned and your child has not been formally screened:
Talk with your pediatric primary health care provider about doing a formal screening.
But know this: If you are concerned about your child's communication or behavior due to a family hi story of ASD, the way he or she talks or acts, or other people's comments about his or her behavior, trust your instincts. Don't wait to talk with your child's doctor about doing more. Before you go to the appointment, complete a free developmental milestone checklist, and read these tips about "How to Talk with the Doctor."
You know your child best and your concerns are important. If the first doctor doesn't respond to you or take you seriously, get a second opinion.
Don't wait. Acting early can make a big difference in your child's development!