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Spotting autism early is vital to development

Many children with autism spectrum disorder aren’t receiving important support services during their preschool years, according to a University of Minnesota report.

Although a reliable diagnosis can be made as young as age 2, the average age of autism diagnosis for Minneapolis children is around 5 years old, according to the Minneapolis Somali Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Project, a two-year study on autism in the Somali community.

"If what was found in Minneapolis is true for the rest of the state, Minnesota is failing to provide early autism services to thousands of children," said Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger in a Minnesota Department of Health news release.

When identified early, therapy and educational tools can aid in the development of children with autism, the MDH says. Testing is done through observation and behavioral evaluation by a psychologist or physician.

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that affects the way people interact, behave and learn, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome.

Around one in 68 children is identified with ASD nationally, according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

As part of National Autism Awareness Month, health officials are asking parents to look out for early signs of autism. They include:

•Saying no single words by 15 months or no 2-word phrases by 24 months.

•Resisting snuggling when picked up; arching back instead.

•Making little or no eye contact.

•Rocking, spinning, swaying, twirling fingers or flapping hands.

•Not crying if in pain or not seeming to have any fear.

•Being very sensitive or not sensitive at all to smells, sounds, lights, textures and touch.

The MDH says parents concerned that their child may have autism should contact a health professional or their school district to start services as soon as possible.

For questions on childhood development and evaluation options, call the Goodhue County Education District at 651-388-4441.

More information on development and support services is available at

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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