Autism is supposed to present before age 3. One might then think that most autistics would be diagnosed by age three, but this is not the case. The average age of diagnosis is above age three. Consider the recent National Survey of Children’s Health. This survey was the basis for the recent autism prevalence estimate of 1 in 50 in the U.S.. When were these kids diagnosed?
... Most kids were diagnosed after age 3. Many after age 5. A significant minority after age 10.
One would hope that parents, pediatricians, family members, day care workers, pre school staff and more would raise flags before kids enter school. But not all kids go to day care or preschool. One would hope that when kids get to kindergarten they might be referred for evaluations if they show signs of autism. One might think that a school nurse or a school psychologist would test a kid and inform parents of the possibility of autism. But that doesn’t seem to happen. Out of over 2000 autistic kids in the survey, only 130 were identified by a school psychologist.
Perhaps in some cases parents are being referred to an outside psychologist for diagnosis. But there isn’t strong evidence in the age distribution that a lot of kids are being diagnosed at ages 5 and 6, when they enter school. Don’t get me wrong, teachers and school staff do a lot. But they have a lot to do and autistic kids in regular and special education are not getting identified as early as could happen.
It can be done. Yvette Janvier demonstrated this in underserved communities, but the need is there in all communities.