Grandparents often suspect autism before parents do, but they sometimes hesitate to voice their concern, a new study reveals.
Since autism treatment is more effective when it begins early, worried grandparents should speak up, say the study’s authors.
The study surveyed 477 parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 196 relatives and friends of the same children, including many grandparents.
Twenty-five percent of the parents said someone suggested that their child “might have a serious condition” before they or their partner suspected it themselves.
Fifty-nine percent of these parents heard this suggestion from at least one grandparent; 24 percent from a teacher; and 17 percent from an aunt or uncle. Only 12 percent said a health professional flagged the problem before they did.
Nearly half of the relatives and friends surveyed said they suspected something was wrong before they were aware that either parent was concerned.
While 51 percent of these friends and relatives voiced their suspicion, 27 percent merely hinted at it, and 22 percent said nothing.
“Since early detection of ASD is critical to effective treatment interventions, we hope the study will serve as a call to action to encourage family and friends to share concerns early on,” says Joseph D. Buxbaum, one of the study’s authors and the director of the Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Autism can be identified by age two, but most kids aren’t diagnosed until age four or later.
In some cases, parents don’t recognize the signs of the disorder because, unlike grandparents, they have scant knowledge of how kids typically develop.
The study found that on average, children who interact at least once a week with a grandparent are diagnosed four to five months earlier than those who don’t.