Early diagnosis crucial for children with autism

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GLADSTONE, Mich. (WLUC) Eighteen years ago, Terry Buckley had twins, but it wasn't long, she said, before she knew something was wrong. Both her son and daughter were diagnosed with conditions on the autism spectrum at 18 months. Her son was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder .

Most children with autism aren't diagnosed until five years old or later, but those years are crucial to learn communication and processing skills.

"We thought it was a death sentence, but we quickly put the pedal to the metal and realized that early intervention is the best, and we learned as much as we could about autism," Buckley said. "It's not a death sentence."

Buckley began a program of 20 to 30 hours of therapy a week.

"Sit down with them and explain to them, 'This is how you play. this is the car. This is the train, and it goes on the track,'" she said.

Different kinds of treatment, like Applied Behavior Analysis, occupational therapy and dietary regimens, can significantly improve quality of life for children with autism. But most aren't diagnosed until five years old or later. And those years are crucial to learn communication and processing skills.

"The important thing for parents to remember is that by waiting, it's going to be a more difficult future for your child and you," Buckley said. "The important thing is to get help."

Buckley said parents should monitor their children's developmental milestones. For example, a child should babble at seven months old, and use simple gestures at one year.

Buckley's teenage children are now in school. She said her son gets A and B grades and plays guitar.

Buckley suggests parents use the resources at Autism Navigator.

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