The Autism Early Identification Project

Early identification and parent intervention supports while waiting for autism diagnosis

We are very excited to announce that parents who have concerns about the development of their children can get access to early autism screening and parent training intervention for their children while waiting for diagnosis. The Winnipeg Foundation has provided funding to Manitoba Families for Effective Autism Treatment (MFEAT) and project manager Dr. Kirsten Wirth, C.Psych., BCBA-D from Wirth Behavioural Health Services to start providing this service to parents immediately.

New research supports that parents often have accurate concerns about their child’s development around 6-12 months, long before receiving a referral for autism diagnosis (Sacrey, Zwaigenbaum, Bryson, Brian, Smith, Robers, Szatmari, Roncadin, et al., 2015). Anagnostou et al. (2014) indicates that in Canada autism continues to be under-diagnosed and the average age of diagnosis is around four years old. This is particularly harmful to a child’s development, as research shows that the earlier a child receives intervention the better the outcome.

If referral for diagnosis is delayed, diagnosis is delayed, and access to intervention is delayed or worse – prevented. In Manitoba children will aged-out of eligibility for critical services after sitting on extensive waitlists if they turn 5, or will be ineligible due to receiving an even later diagnosis. Therefore, early identification and behavioural intervention is critical to children with autism, and treatment outcomes will reduce autism symptoms as well as decrease long term costs to families and funders (Anagnostou et al., 2014; Peters-Scheffer et al., 2012). This project should help parents to achieve early access to diagnosis and treatment, as well as some intervention using applied behaviour analysis (ABA) while they are waiting.

Parents can access the service by contacting Wirth Behavioural Health Services @ 204-807-6779, emailing Dr. Wirth at, or the contact page on This project is expected to run for at least one year.

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