Autism and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention

Either due to lack of information, due to difficulty in interpreting the signs and symptoms of autism (minimizing or normalizing them as part of the development) and / or by other barriers, be it cultural, in language, etc. or even by stigmas of society, many Latino children are not being diagnosed or treated on time. I invite you to inform yourself so that your son / daughter reaches his / her best potential.

If you speak English you have probably heard about autism . But if you do not speak English, you may have heard this term before or not. And, if you have heard it, you probably have several doubts about what it means and even if there is someone close to you or in your family that suffers it, it is possible that little is said about the topic or that your family members avoid it. They are even embarrassed! In fact there are many myths about autism, such as what vaccines can cause. That is not true .

Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance in our community. A recent study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatricsshowed that many Latino parents tend to interpret the signs and symptoms of autism (which, incidentally, may be of different severity) as family problems or as a sign that one of the parents is not paying attention. This causes the diagnosis to be delayed with negative consequences in the development of the child. On average, the diagnosis of autism in Hispanic children it is delayed from one to 2 ½ years later since we not only have cultural barriers. There are communication barriers between parents and health (cultural) providers, language and lack of health coverage. In addition to the stigma, since many Hispanic families or are afraid of the diagnosis by stigma (and prefer to remain in denial, delaying the diagnosis). Or they take an attitude of acceptance of what “God sent them” and do not seek professional help for the boy, which is not fair to the children. That is why it is important that we provide them with information and tools in a way that they can understand and accept. All parents want the best for their children.

Based on recent studies, researcher Annette Estes of the Autism Center at the University of Washington in Seattle says there is evidence that it is necessary to support intervention policies for children with autism either through health insurance or the government for early intervention in autism.

Researchers have consistently found that when treatment starts in children when they are small (for example 12 months) through intensive game-based interactions, used by therapists and by parents at home as well; the social and communication skills that children with autism  use and maintain later on are promoted . This helps their intellectual development, the functioning of their brain, their behavior and their ability to speak. In fact, TIME magazine considered the intensive early intervention in autism so important that it included it as one of the “Ten Medical Advances of 2012”.

Early diagnosis is crucial to teach children to function better with autism, according to Katherine Zuckerman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University.

In the United States, National Autism Awareness Month is April. We do not have to wait until April to inform us or to help someone who has or could have a child with autism. Your future could change if we act today.

By the way, under the Low-Cost Health Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), diagnostic tests for autism are covered at no cost to children 18 months to 24 months of age. And if your child has a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder and has any type of health coverage under the same law, “behavioral treatments” are covered, and while it is true that it is not always easy to find Qualified therapists, you must not give up. Your child’s health is worth it.

Maybe your child qualifies for one of the health coverage options for low-income people for Medi-Cal or Medicaid, you can get information from a human agency in your area. If you live in California you can get information at www.CoveredCalifornia.com .

You can also visit the exchange of medical insurance in your state. In California you can go to www.CoveredCA.com or call 1-800-300-0213. Community health centers in your community could help you access medical services if you do not qualify for a health coverage program, in California you could find a health center at www.californiahealthplus.com .

Remember, the most important thing is diagnosis and early intervention. If you suspect that your child might have autism, go to your doctor, if you have questions, ask for a second opinion. If it is confirmed, get professionals specialized in autism that treat it and that guide you in what you must do at home so that you help your child to achieve their best potential.

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