LMHS offering autism spectrum disorder screenings
By MEGHAN McCOY
The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida formed a partnership last November to offer free monthly autism spectrum disorder screening for toddlers 18 months to 5 years old.
ASD is a serious, lifelong developmental disorder, according to Lee Memorial Health System Director of Public Affairs Karen Krieger.
“Found four times more often in boys than girls, many children with ASD show symptoms concerning difficulty with communication, language, socializing and unusual behaviors before the age of 3,” she said.
Symptoms can vary greatly from child to child, which makes it hard for parents to know exactly what to look for.
Since the majority of the warning signs of ASD show up throughout early childhood, parents can identify what their child should be doing at a certain age, rather than looking for a specific behavior.
There are certain things parents should look for when their child is 12, 15, 18, 24 and 36 months old and, if they do not display a certain act, then it may indicate that their child could have ASD.
At 12 months old, a child should turn and look at you when you call his or her name. When the child is 15 months old, he or she should try and get your attention by pointing to something of interest, along with using and understanding at least three words.
The child should use gestures with words, such as pointing and saying “look” or participating in simple pretend play when they are 18 months old.
A child who is 24 months old should be able to put together at least two words without imitating what’s just been heard and show interest in playing with another child or tries to play along. At 36 months old a child should enjoy playing with children by playing pretend or imitating adults.
“It is important to take advantage of this free, confidential screening evaluation,” Krieger said. “As with all health concerns about your child, it is essential for the pediatrician to know the results of this screen and help you make decisions regarding treatment.”
On Sept. 17, from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., screenings will to take place at the HealthPark Medical Center’s Child Development Center, 16150 RoseRush Court, in Fort Myers.
The screenings will be conducted by the Neurosciences Center at The Children’s Hospital, under the guidance of pediatric neurologist Jose Colon, MD, MPH, and pediatric psychiatrist Marianne Krouk, DO.
“The professionals from the Neuroscience Center at The Children’s Hospital providing the screenings are honored to have the opportunity to assist families and encourage attendance,” Krieger said.
Parents will complete an age-appropriate questionnaire that is not a test, but a screening tool designed to identify children at risk of having ASD. A developmental screening is also completed to look for for delays in other areas of development.
“Many services are available to children with ASD and developmental delays,” she said. “It has been proven that early intervention provides great gains in communication and socialization skills.”
Krieger said they will follow up with families to ensure they are being put through the proper channels to receive a definitive diagnosis.
To schedule a screening, call (239) 985-3608.