Parents, it turns out, aren't necessarily the first to spot signs of autism in their children. Close friends and grandparents—and especially grandmothers—are consistently helpful in getting earlier diagnoses, researchers report in the journal Autism. After surveying nearly 500 parents of children with autism, and then following that up with surveys of nearly 200 friends and family members referred by the parents, they found that one in four parents described others noticing signs before they did, while half the family and friends say they noticed signs first but were often hesitant to say anything to the parents.
The earlier the diagnosis, the better a child's behavior, IQ, and overall treatment will be, researchers report in a Futurity press release, which makes the case for including the wisdom of a child's inner circle when it comes to health concerns. Late last year, the Atlantic reported on a group of grandmothers who each raised at least one child with autism and who were recruited to spot signs in the next generation. "They're very invested in their grandchildren—they're watching their grandchildren, interacting with them, and they're good raters of their grandchildren's behavior," a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics says. "Ignorance is no match for an army of grandmas." (MRIs might be able to diagnose autism in infants before symptoms appear.)