December 21, 2014  

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Tupelo Autism Screening Day Rescheduled for May 29 in Tupelo

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The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies will conduct autism screening for children ages 5 years and under in Tupelo from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on May 29 at the Lee County Library at 219 North Madison St. An April screening was canceled last month as a result of inclement weather.  

“The incidence of autism continues to rise in our country,” said Dr. Jane Siders, co-director of the Institute. “The latest numbers from the Center for Disease Control indicate that 1 in 68 children are identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although autism is diagnosed in both males and females and across all races, boys are five times more likely to be identified as girls and white children are identified at a higher rate than black or Hispanic children.

The first step in the identification process is screening. A screen is a short test to tell if children are on track with their development. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9, 18, 24 or 30 month well-baby visits. Children should be specifically screened for autism at 18 and 24 months.   

“Because early intervention can be very effective in treating ASD, it is important that we identify children early in life” said Dr. Alicia Westbrook, an early intervention specialist with the Institute. The first three years of life are the most important for intervention. Yet, the average age for identification is 4. We can do better. Children with autism can be identified as young as two, with some symptoms occurring earlier than that.”   

For more information, go to the Institute’s website www.usm.edu/disability-studies  or call 601-266-5030.