Autism development may be obscured by parents' memory - SFARI Parents may notice a loss of skills in their children as it is happening, but do not recall it clearly later on. The unpublished research, presented yesterday at the 2014 International Meeting for Autism Research in Atlanta, hints at a fatal flaw in diagnostic tools for autism that rely on parents’ memory. Regular screening by pediatricians would be a more reliable way to pick up early signs of autism, says Sally Ozonoff vice chair for research in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, Davis MIND Institute, who presented the findings. Autism is usually diagnosed around 2 to 3 years of age, when problems with social skills and language become most apparent. The findings presented at the meeting suggest that most children with autism show a gradual decline in their social skills in their first two years of life, rather than a sudden loss of skills at that age.