How the pandemic has impacted the diagnosis of autism

April is Autism Awareness Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 44 children have autism spectrum disorder. However, isolation during the pandemic has made it difficult to diagnose.

“Because of our current situation with the pandemic, this is something that we’re seeing a lot, is that you’re not around as many kids. You’re not out. Parents don’t have as many examples of children to know are they just playing alone because they haven’t had a playmate in two years or are they just not interested in other people because they’re very shy and don’t know a lot of people outside of the family,” said Chiara Graver, behavior analyst for Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

She said signs of autism spectrum disorder are wide-ranging but can include a child not responding to their name, having limited communication at 18 months old and lacking certain social skills, like not making eye contact.

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Currently, there is no cure for autism, but there are various treatment options available.

Graver said if you are concerned about your child’s behavior, it’s best to talk to their pediatrician who can then refer you to a specialist. She also emphasizes the importance of early intervention.

“The early developmental period for any child is very critical and with autism, there is a lot of research which suggests that early intervention is key in kind of addressing some of those difficult and challenging behaviors,” she explained.

Graver said researchers are still trying to determine what causes autism, but they believe it’s linked to both genetic and environmental factors.