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Friday, May 9, 2008

Speech Delay = AUTISM??

Differentiating between speech delay, developmental delay and autism in young children.

Parents of young children with autism often report delayed speech as their first concern, but speech delay is not specific to autism.

Delayed speech is also present in young children with global developmental delay caused by intellectual disability and those with severe to profound hearing loss.

Children with speech delays or hearing loss are usually able to compensate for their limited or lack of speech by the use of non verbal communication skills such as using gestures (e.g. pointing), eye contact and facial expression to get their message across. These children also respond to praise, can empathise, imitate and engage in make believe play.

Children with developmental delay will also usually attain these skills when their developmental level passes about 12 months of age.

However, the child with autism continues to have ongoing problems with delayed and disordered language, social communication skills, empathy and pretend play skills regardless of developmental level (Charman & Baird, 2002). These findings have implications for early screening and diagnosis in very young children.

Early identification of autism is clearly important but is not an end in itself. How we respond to very young children with autism and their families is critical. Early identification is only useful if followed up by access to early intervention programmes, parent education and support and a range of health, education and welfare services for the child and his/her family