Autism Awareness Month: Grandmothers Spot Autism Earlier, According To Experts

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 03, 04:00 am
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Grandmothers who bond with their grandchildren regularly can likely spot autism in kids better than the parents, which could influence early autism diagnosis.
(Photo : Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

April marks the observance of Autism Awareness Month and a new study sheds more light on early diagnosis of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in kids. Experts say grandmothers could help spot the condition earlier and even better than parents, especially if grandma has regular interactions with the children.

Experts at Mount Sinai's Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment conducted the study on autism diagnosis. They enlisted 477 parents and 196 parent-recommended extend family members and friends as participants to answer questions about children with autism.

Experts learned at least 50 percent of grandmothers can detect autism early in children, bringing early diagnosis by the time the baby is 5.18 months. Children with autism who have no other siblings were more likely diagnosed early as well, given the amount of attention they get from doting grandmothers. Next to grandmas, it's the teachers more likely to spot autism earlier than the kids' parents.

Part of the reason for early detection is due to the grandmother or the teacher's constant interaction with the children. Experts, however, also deduced that parents usually hesitate to acknowledge the child's condition compared to the grandmother, as per the study published in the journal Autism.

"Many parents avoid seeking help to find a diagnosis for their child, even though they sense something might be wrong," co-study author Professor Nachum Sicherman said, as per Science Daily. "They often ignore signs of a larger problem and look the other way, making the role of close family members and friends vital to accelerating diagnosis and helping a child's condition."

Experts also acknowledged the study has its limitations because of its number of participants, as per NDTV. The researchers were also unable to look into a grandmother or teacher's direct influence on the child upon the confirmation of the diagnosis and further studies will have to be undertaken to explain this.

Nonetheless, the study highlighted how other family members or close friends are crucial to parents with a child with autism. "The more eyes the better, and this is especially true in situations where the child with possible difficulties is the older child with younger siblings," Dr. Thomas Frazier of the Cleveland Children's Clinic Center for Autism, as per Reuters.

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