One of the things that continues to astound us is how young everyone tells us Alanna is to be in intensive intervention. She's currently 28 months, about 2 1/3 years old. She started at about 23 months, just before she turned 2 years old. In Ontario's Autism Intervention Program, Alanna is currently the youngest child on the waiting list for subsidized services in my city, and there is only one younger in the region.
Why is this? It's because diagnosis is long and painful. Autism is commonly not detected by medical professionals in a timely fashion, and even when it is, the referral process takes too long in Ontario. If we had waited for the diagnosis, we would still be waiting just to confirm Alanna had autism. Some professionals won't diagnose children as young as 18 months, even though it can be done, especially for children who are moderate or severe.
You can obtain a diagnosis privately. It's not cheap (around $2000), but it will save you at least a year of waiting. If you cannot afford private ABA therapy, consider investing in a private diagnosis. You may even be able to find a private psychologist who will give you a break if you provide proof you've tried everything you can to raise funds for the diagnosis. You can also write off this cost on income taxes. If you have health insurance at work, they will also probably cover at least some of this cost.
For Ontario parents:
If you are a parent and suspect your child may have autism, do not wait. If you wait for the public system your child may be school age before they get intervention, and will fall farther and farther behind. Meanwhile, you will be left to deal with your child's behaviour with little support in the meantime. Find a way to get your diagnosis as quickly as possible. Make it a priority; you will be glad you made the sacrifice later. If you need help finding a psychologist who can help, let me know, I will do my best to help you find one to get you the diagnosis you need to start accessing services.