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Pediatricians appear to miss autism symptoms in brief checkups, concludes a study conducted at the University of Utah. Researchers studied videos of pediatric exams in which care providers performed autism evaluations for forty-two 15 to 33 month old children. The researchers found that within 10 minute spans (which is the typical length of time a pediatrician spends with a patient), children with autism exhibited much more typical behavior than atypical behavior overall, making it easy for clinicians to miss indicators of autism risk. In the study, even the experts who reviewed the videos failed to make referrals for 39% of the children with autism, based on the brief observations alone (Pediatrics, online Jan. 12).

Autistic children display unusual behavior. A typical autistic child’s behavior is likely to include some of the following:
•no speech
•non-speech vocalizations
•delayed development of speech
•echolalia: speech consisting of literally repeating something heard
•delayed echolalia: repeating something heard at an earlier time
•confusion between the pronouns “I” and “You”
•lack of interaction with other children
•lack of eye contact
•lack of response to people
•treating other people as if they were inanimate objects
•when picked up, offering no “help” (“feels like lifting a sack of potatoes”)
•preoccupation with hands
•flapping hands
•balancing, e.g. standing on a fence
•walking on tiptoes
•extreme dislike of certain sounds
•extreme dislike of touching certain textures
•dislike of being touched
•either extremely passive behavior or extremely nervous, active behavior
•extreme dislike of certain foods
•behavior that is aggressive to others
•lack of interest in toys
•desire to follow set patterns of behavior/interaction
•desire to keep objects in a certain physical pattern
•repetitive behavior (perserveration)
•self-injurious behavior
•”islets of competence”, areas where the child has normal or even advanced competence. Typical examples: ◦drawing skill
◦musical skill
◦calendar arithmetic
◦memory skills
◦perfect pitch

There are several assessments used to diagnose autism that need to be administered that do not occur within a 10 minute observation or visit with a pediatrician. If your child has several of the above, it is important to visit your children’s hospital.

Susie Bean Gives Team