Early Autism Screening Can Improve Reading Proficiency Rates

Autism is more prevalent than all childhood cancers, childhood HIV, and juvenile diabetes combined—and it costs American families dearly. The bill for a lifetime of care for one family can run up to $3.6 million, not to mention the associated emotional strain.

Marcus Autism Center Director Ami Klin shared this startling data at the Get Georgia Reading Innovation Summit in September. He said the same practice that helps children with autism—early social engagement—also helps every other child who has communication challenges for any reason. And children who know how to interact as babies and young children are much more likely to be reading proficiently by the end of third grade. But how can we know if adults are successfully engaging with children?

“Just as we have growth charts for height and weight, we need to have growth charts for the milestones of social development,” Dr. Klin says. “Deviations from social-development milestones may lead to autism, but they also may lead to communication delays and eventually to reading delays. This is because to read well, one must learn to speak well. And to speak well, one must first be engaged with the world.”

Hear Dr. Klin’s ideas about engineering a guide to social development that could give families access to screening in a child’s early years—the most critical time to support healthy brain development.

You can hear all our speakers from the Innovation Summit by subscribing to the Get Georgia Reading YouTube channel.