Some guidelines on how to identify young children who might have autism are
contained in a new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental Learning
Notably, the report includes a number of questions that a pediatrician
might ask the parents of an infant or young child to determine whether it
shows signs of autism and thus need a formal evaluation.
For an infant of three months, for example, the pediatrician might ask:"
Does your baby look toward you when you are talking?" or"
Are you able to calm your baby?" For an infant of five months, a
pediatrician might ask: "Is your baby usually happy and smiling and
making interesting sounds when he or she sees you?" For a 1 year old, a
doctor might ask: "Does your baby initiate interactions with sounds or
smiles, then respond with more sounds or smiles after you respond? And for a 2
year old, a clinician might ask: "Does your toddler use words to let you
know what he wants or what he is feeling?"
Such questions, the report states, reflect healthy developmental milestones
in infants and young children. Moreover, results from two studies showed that
responses to such questions could discriminate between children with no
developmental challenges and children with them and could also predict later
And if, after posing such questions, a pediatrician decides that a child
should have a formal evaluation, then the evaluation should be comprehensive,
the report emphasizes. It should include assessments in social, emotional,
cognitive, language, motor, and sensory domains. It should also examine
interactions within the child's family and look into the availability of
community support in the event that the child has autism.
"This report is important to the future of children and families all
over the country," T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., said in a prepared
statement accompanying release of the report. Brazelton is a professor of
pediatrics emeritus at Harvard Medical School and a member of the working
group that put the report together. "We know that the earlier in
childhood—or even infancy—treatment begins, the more likely people
affected by autism can adapt to society and the workplace."
"CDC/ICDL Collaboration Report on a Framework for Early Identification and Preventive Intervention of Emotional and Developmental Challenges" is posted at