The sooner you know, the sooner you can help:
CAIRN launches awareness campaign to identify autism earlier
HAMILTON, ON-- Most parents, and many family physicians, are unfamiliar with the early warning signs that can signal autism. Although new research shows these signs can be observed in infants as young as, or younger than, 12 months, children with autism are typically not diagnosed before the age of 3.
The Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network (CAIRN) hopes its autism awareness campaign will help to lower that age so interventions crucial to improving children’s outcomes can begin earlier.
Titled “The sooner you know, the sooner you can help”, the campaign targets both parents and family physicians with information designed to improve early screening and referral and a full-color poster highlighting early warning signs that physicians can display in their waiting rooms.
The packages have been sent to 17,000 family physicians across the country. All are members of the College of Family Physicians in Canada. The poster, available in English and French, can also be ordered free of charge from the CAIRN web site, www.cairn-site.com.
Child psychiatrist and autism researcher Peter Szatmari, founding director of CAIRN, notes the timing of the campaign couldn’t be better. “We’re pleased to be launching this effort during Autism Awareness Month, at the same time as we are reporting exciting new research showing that specific behavioral signs, when seen in infants as young as 12 months, can predict whether a child will develop autism.
“ This is a huge breakthrough in our understanding of the disorder, and signals the importance of ongoing surveillance and monitoring of infants at the earliest stages of development.”
Published in the current issue of the International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, the findings are from a groundbreaking study of infants led by Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, a developmental pediatrician and CAIRN researcher.
He and others working on the infant study, which include Wendy Roberts in Toronto and Susan Bryson in Halifax, contributed articles to a newsletter that was sent to family physicians as part of the autism awareness campaign. Designed to improve early screening and referral, the articles focus on early warning signs, the importance of routine screening and when to refer to a specialist. A list of early intervention resources is also provided for doctors and parents of children who are concerned about a child’s development.
The accompanying poster helps parents of young children identify possible developmental delays and encourages them to discuss their concerns with their family doctor.
“ It highlights a number of key behavioral signs that our study has identified as being specific risk markers for autism,” says Dr. Zwaigenbaum. “It doesn’t mean that every child who has one or more of these signs will go on to be diagnosed with autism, but it does indicate that certain developmental milestones are not being met. Our hope is that it will empower parents to seek help. And, as our campaign says, the sooner you know, the sooner you can help.”
Read more about this campaign
Learn more about the early warning signs for autism