Infants in Delaware could be eligible for free autism screenings through a pilot program at a Baltimore-based pediatric health center.
The Kennedy Krieger Institute announced Friday an initiative to help identify the red flags of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in infant siblings of children with ASD as early as possible. Research studies have found that for families who have one child with ASD, the chance of a subsequent sibling developing the disorder is one in five. To bring support and awareness to families with children most at risk – infant siblings – Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md. will provide free developmental assessments for infants between ages five to 10 months who have an older sibling diagnosed with ASD and live within Delaware.
"We launched this initiative to increase the likelihood of identifying children most at risk for ASD," says Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., director, Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute. "My hope is that Delaware families will take advantage of this opportunity to seek help sooner and not miss out on early intervention, which can improve lifelong learning, communication and social skills."
While children typically receive a diagnosis of ASD between ages two to four, researchers are discovering that the earliest signs of ASD can be detected in infants as young as six to 14 months of age. Dr. Landa stresses that the earlier ASD is detected, the more effective early intervention can be in the life of a child.
"In terms of screening for early diagnosis, a predisposition to autism should not be treated differently than a predisposition to cancer or diabetes," says Dr. Landa. "If your mother had breast cancer, then you know you should get tested earlier and more frequently than someone without an elevated risk. The same is true for autism. The tracking of developmental milestones is critical for all children, but babies who are at increased risk for autism need to be monitored earlier and more often than the current screening recommendations for infants and toddlers."
The free developmental assessments will take place at the nationally renowned Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Families living in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia are currently eligible.
To learn more, visit autism.kennedykrieger.org.