Question: Was my pediatrician correct when he said my 9-month old baby is too young to be tested for autism?
Answer: So first of all, I think it's really important that the parent is bringing their concerns to their pediatrician, because it's through that ongoing discussion that early indicators of autism are most likely to be identified. While it's true that there isn't any specific test, whether it's a questionnaire or a blood test, that can indicate which nine-month old has autism, certainly there are aspects of development that are very relevant to thinking about which infants are at risk of developing autism -- things like, you know, the ability of the child to connect socially through their eye gaze, through their social smiles, their early play development, you know, able to imitate actions of other people, the development of early communication skills like babbling and use of gestures. I mean, all these things are relevant, even as early as nine months, in evaluating a child's early social and communication development.
So, although it's true that there isn't a specific test for autism at nine months old, certainly parents, you know, from as early an age as possible that they start becoming aware of differences in their child's development, they should certainly bring those concerns to the attention of their health care provider and to be aware that, as the child becomes somewhat older, there may be specific screening tools or other assessment instruments that may help kind of distinguish the children who are truly at highest risk. So I think the important thing here is that it's not about a single test, but it's more about ongoing discussion and the importance of both parents and professionals being aware of what the early indicators are.