Autism is getting diagnosed earlier, making treatment more effective, says a Utah researcher

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SALT LAKE CITY -- An intense effort to raise awareness about Autism in the United States is paying off in substantive ways, according to a new study conducted in several states, including Utah.

Dr. Deborah Bilder, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, says what they discovered is that in the span of four years, the average age of a child receiving an autism diagnosis went from 32  months to 27 months.

“That is a critical period of time to begin the intervention necessary to optimize outcomes for these children,” Bilder said.

The study compared the age of diagnosis of children born in 2002 and 2007. Bilder says therapy has proven to be more effective when started at a younger age.

The finding comes at an opportune time in Utah. Senate Bill 57 from 2014 goes into effect in January of 2016, telling most insurance programs they have to fund autism treatment.

Bilder says parents should ask pediatricians to evaluate their children for signs of autism during their 18-month and 24-month checkups, and she mentioned red flags parents of younger children should look for.

See your pediatrician if, at 12 months of age, your child:

  1. Does not babble
  2. Does not point, use gestures, or play patty cake.

Also see your pediatrician if, at 16 months of age, your child does not know any words.

And go to the doctor if your child seems to lose vocabulary or social skills.