Early diagnosis and intervention can make a difference for each child

Montreal Autism Centre

Autism is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder that presents in the first 3 years of life and includes:

  • seriously delayed expressive language and object use (especially symbolic play),
  • disrupted social interactions,
  • difficulties with imitation,
  • serious behavioural difficulties including temper tantrums and,
  • in the majority of cases, delayed mental ability.

The dual diagnosis of autism and mental retardation renders the prognosis extremely poor and the possibility of full recovery bleak. Latest estimates, which appear to be increasing at an alarming rate, reveal the incidence of ASD to be 6 per 1,000. It is considered a serious lifelong disorder associated with mental retardation in 75 to 80% of all cases. The cost per child per lifetime for special services and society's loss of an active contributing citizen is estimated at 3.2 million $US.

However, there is a growing body of research that indicates that early diagnosis and intensive behavioural intervention can lead not only to substantial behavioural improvement (Rogers, 1998; Lovaas, 1987), but avoid acquired mental retardation (Zelazo, 1997a, 1997b, 2001).