Importance Of Early Diagnosis For ASD Children – Syarifah Zafirah Syed Azman

Those with autism spectrum disorder often have difficulties interacting and communicating with others and may show signs of restricted and repetitive behaviours or interests.

Recently, there has been much news relating to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Malaysia. Celebrities, social media influencers, support groups, and many others often share and create awareness regarding the disorder.

Most of the influencers sharing news regarding autism have a child with the condition as well. However, the focus of awareness programmes in Malaysia is often on the traits, symptoms, and challenges of ASD children.

There is little information about getting diagnosed, and some parents refuse to get diagnoses or interventions for their special-needs children. Here, I will discuss the importance of early ASD diagnosis.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability resulting from abnormalities in the individual’s brain. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often have difficulties interacting and communicating with others, and may show signs of restricted and repetitive behaviours or interests.

There is no single cause of ASD (Cherney & Seladi-Schulman, 2021), but it is often associated with a genetic condition, birth complications, and having family members with the same condition. According to the Ministry of Health in 2014, at least one in 625 children between 18 to 26 months of age are diagnosed with ASD.

Understandably, diagnosing a child may come with unpleasant setbacks. The given diagnosis lasts their entire lives, causing them to live with the label and stereotypes that come with the diagnosis.

Due to this fear, some parents choose to delay diagnosis without realising that their children’s symptoms may get worse over time without any intervention (Dillenburger, 2014).

Additionally, they must face criticism and comments from ignorant family members, society, and their children’s peers. Thus, for some parents, it is easier to ignore the red flags and choose to live in denial. However, parents should be informed that getting an official diagnosis has its perks too. 

A formal diagnosis by a paediatrician is beneficial for the following reasons:

  • It is the first step for parents to arrange effective plans for the future, such as education, intervention, and living arrangements (Elder et al., 2017). 
  • It allows parents to understand their children better, and better adapt to the situation. Parents who understand their children well will have better parental competency in communicating, educating, and nurturing their children (Mohammadi et al., 2019). 
  • Parents can plan intervention programmes for the child to develop the skills they are lacking. Previous studies showed that ASD children who receive an early diagnosis and join early intervention programmes would have better development in cognitive development and adaptive functioning.
  • It helps enhance the child’s development. Children who were diagnosed earlier and joined intervention programmes showed better language, communication, and social skills than those diagnosed later and did not join early intervention programmes (Gibbs et al., 2019; Elder et al., 2017; Dillenburger, 2014). 

Therefore, it would be highly beneficial for parents to get their children diagnosed and plan for intervention programmes. Do visit your paediatricians for further clarification and information regarding the disorder.

Understandably, each parent wants the best for their child, and with special-needs children, parents can become very protective. Getting a proper diagnosis is essentially protection as well, as children will benefit from intervention

Ultimately, parents must make sure that they make informed decisions before deciding on anything. It is up to parents for them to either wait until their children reach adolescence in the hope that the symptoms would go away, or to get an early diagnosis and start paving the way for their children to get better through intervention programmes.

Needless to say, earlier diagnosis and intervention can significantly impact the development of ASD children. Thus, parents need to seriously consider getting proper diagnosis and plan for intervention for their children. 

Syarifah Zafirah Syed Azman is a postgraduate student in psychology at International Islamic University Malaysia.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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