The new recommendations released by the American Academy of Pediatrics this Monday, emphasize early intervention, which is touted to improve a child's chances for effective treatment.
"If you recognize it earlier, you get them into treatment earlier," explains Dr. Scott Myers, a pediatrician specializing in neurodevelopment. Myers co-authored two clinical reports designed to help pediatricians spot and manage autism.
"Kids who start (treatment) earlier do better in the long run," he adds .
For the first time, the guidelines call for universal screening of babies at the regular 18- and 24-month check-ups. This is regardless of whether there are warning signs. The guidelines will be published in the journal Pediatrics as well as on the group's Web site at http://www.aap.org.
Till now, the exact cause of autism is unknown. Autism is a complex developmental disorder that includes problems with social interaction and communication.
The symptoms of autism can range from mild awkwardness to severe disability and mental retardation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one in every 150 U.S. children has autism.
Some parents credit early detection and intervention for the changes shown by their autistic children. Doctors say while catching the disorder early on might not cure it; it could well mitigate the symptoms.
Under the new recommendations, doctors are expected to keep a watch out for symptoms such as not responding to a parent's call, a lack of "baby talk", smiling late, and difficulty or failure to make eye contact.