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USM will offer free autism screening in Biloxi

As many as one child out of 68 has an autism spectrum disorder, the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate.

As part of Autism Awareness Month, the University of Southern Mississippi’s Institute for Disability Studies will conduct autism screenings next week in seven cities, including Biloxi.

USM’s Mississippi Early Childhood Inclusion Center’s screening for children ages 5 years and under will be 3 to 6 p.m. April 25 at Families First Resource Center at 140 St. John Ave., Biloxi.

“Because early intervention can be very effective in treating ASD, it is important that we identify children early in life,” MECIC Director Dr. Alicia Westbrook said in a news release. Some symptoms are poor social interaction, highly focused interests and/or repetitive behaviors, and difficulty communicating with others.

A screening is a short test to tell if children are on track with their development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-month, 18-month, and 24- or 30-month doctor visits. Children should be specifically screened for autism at 18 and 24 months, the news release said.

Children who show problems on the developmental or autism screen will be referred for a comprehensive evaluation or diagnosis. A team of professionals, including a physician or child psychiatrist who is trained to identify autism, should be available along with other team members to conduct a diagnostic evaluation, the news release said.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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