AMHERST, NY (WKBW) — Isolation among children during the pandemic made it harder to diagnose autism.
The Center for Disease Control states that one in 44 children has autism spectrum disorder.
“Could things have been missed? Absolutely. Could there be a lack of correct diagnosis because of that? Absolutely,’ explained Theresa Baker, director of nursing, Autism Services.
Autism Services in Amherst provides a variety of programs and support for children and adults with autism.
Baker and Veronica Federiconi, CEO, ofAutism Services, said there is no doubt isolation caused by the pandemic made it difficult for families to have their children screened for the condition.
“For a parent to sit there and say well they may just accept that as okay — ‘this is a toddler’ and this is what we would expect,” Federiconi noted.
These autism experts explained what parents and families should look for in behavior.
“And with individuals with autism. It's eye contact. It’s social interaction. It’s verbal communication,” Baker replied.
You should also watch if a child shows obsessive behavior or is fixated on a particular item.
“Somebody may be hyper-focused on a dinosaur or something might be a key to it, but parents would not know that — they might just look at it and say oh he really likes dinosaurs,” responded Federiconi.
The experts say the early years are critical in terms of diagnosing autism, usually between ages two and three.
“We really saw an increase in referrals for autism evaluations in 2021,” stated Dr. Michelle Hartley-McAndrew, medical director, Children's Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital.
In 2020, the Center had referrals for 594 children and in 2021 it received 1,371 calls for an autism evaluation.
“Usually I tell parents that the autism diagnosis really is for everybody else interacting with the child, so they know how that child learns,” noted Dr. Harley-McAndrew.
Experts say it is critical to get an accurate diagnosis before your child begins school. You should reach out to your pediatrician and if your child is already in school and you are concerned, reach out to your school district.