CDC Launches Campaign To Raise Awareness of Autism Among Physicians, Parents
CDC officials on Monday launched a campaign to raise awareness among physicians and parents about the need for early diagnosis of autism, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Physicians can diagnose autism -- a disorder that affects social, emotional and communication skills -- in children as young as age 18 months, but researchers have found that half of children with autism or similar developmental disorders are not diagnosed until ages four to six.
As part of the campaign, CDC has begun to distribute to physicians posters and checklists that describe healthy "developmental milestones" for children at specific ages, the AP/Sun reports. CDC also has established a height chart with similar information for distribution to parents. The chart states that children at age two should have the ability to point to objects when they are named, use two- to four-word phrases and follow basic instructions. Children at age three should imitate adults and playmates, play imaginative games with dolls and use pronouns or plural words, according to the chart.
CDC recommends that physicians or parents who suspect that a child has a developmental disorder contact a developmental pediatrician, specialist or early intervention agency. According to CDC, diagnosis of autism has become a "pressing issue" since the 1990s, when medical and government officials expanded the definition of the disorder.
CDC behavioral scientist Catherine Rice said, "It's become more clear in the case of autism that it really is an urgent public health concern -- before we used to think of it as a pretty low public health disorder; it's much more common than we previously thought." She added, "It's important for families and providers -- if a child has a developmental concern, early intervention really can have a positive impact. It doesn't necessarily cure or clean up the issue, but it can help the child to a higher level" (Yee, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/21).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday reported on the CDC autism campaign. The segment includes comments from Jose Cordero, director of the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and Sarah Spence, a pediatric neurologist at University of California-Los Angeles (Neighmond, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/22). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In addition, NBC's "Nightly News" on Tuesday reported on the campaign. The segment includes comments from Portia Iverson and Jon Shestack, parents of an autistic child and founders of Cure Autism Now; Dr. Michael Merzenich at the UC -San Francisco; and Dr. Daniel Geschwind, a genetics researcher at UCLA (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 2/22). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.