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As They Grow – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD is a developmental disability that involves two key components; difficulties in social communication and restricted repetitive behaviours.  It is relatively common and is estimated to occur in one in 66 Canadian children between the ages of five and 17.

The prevalence has increased, leading to speculation about the cause of this increase.  At one point the measles vaccine was falsely implicated in leading to this increase.  It is possible that the prevalence has not increased but that we are more aware of the diagnosis and thus the diagnosis is made more often.

There are no blood tests or biomarkers that help to make a diagnosis of ASD.  The diagnosis is based on a number of criteria that are examined by a health care provider with expertise in developmental disabilities.  Some red flags in development may show up as early as six months, and include some motor delays, but most children will have more evidence of symptoms between 12 and 24 months.

Regular visits to your primary care provider to do developmental surveillance is one of the key ways of diagnosing ASD early. If there are concerning delays in development or behaviours that may be consistent with ASD, further screening through validated questionnaires such as the M-CHAT may be used to help further diagnose ASD.  A referral to a dedicated developmental pediatrician or interdisciplinary team might also be required. The importance of diagnosing early is that interventions can maximize the potential of children with ASD.

As a caregiver, you can maximize your time with your primary care provider by writing down any concerns you have before your visit.  It is also good to take stock of your child’s milestones.  Note down your child’s language development, how they engage with others, whether they can grasp, draw, pick up small objects, stack blocks, walk up stairs, etc.This will help to get a good idea of where they are at when you attend your visit.

The following website can help to prepare for your visit:


Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and grandmother of one lovely princess! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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