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November 17, 2018

How to Identify Autism in Your Child

Autism is a life-long developmental disability present at birth, but the signs of this spectrum disorder are hard to detect in a newborn. Research has suggested that there is no specific cause for autism. Instead, the disability appears to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Since there are no tests available that can diagnose autism before age two, parents need to become aware of the symptoms especially since the number of cases is on the rise.

The good news is that caught early, intensive treatment can greatly lessen the severity of autism. This is because the brains of infants and children are still pliable, or malleable. The developing connections from neuron to neuron are loose and can be re-routed. This is not the case for an adult because their brains are “hard-wired” and more difficult to change.

Characteristics of Autism
Autism causes a lack of communication skills that directly affects social interaction. It’s called a spectrum disorderbecause characteristics are varied and range from children not speaking at all to a higher functioning disorder known as Aspergers Syndrome. Children with this higher functioning autism often develop above average skills in one area such as technology or art. However, they will still lack proper communication and social skills.

Early Signs of Autism

Early signs include a lack of developmental milestones such as cooing, babbling, smiling, and making eye contact. Babies should smile really big by the age of six months and mimic gestures at nine months. They should be babbling and cooing around four months and respond to their name, point, reach and wave at 12 months. Be concerned if your child still isn’t speaking words by 16 months.

Later Signs of Autism

Sometimes signs of autism will appear later. This includes the child who has started talking and suddenly stops. He may rarely laugh or smile or reach out to be picked up. When playing they may focus on one part of a toy instead of the whole toy. They will play alongside another child but not interact. Instead, they prefer to play alone. Autistic children tend not to ask for help or make basic requests. Other later signs to watch for include hyperactivity, a focus on sameness, and repetitive or echoed speech. They may become oppositional and uncooperative.

Treatment and Intervention for Autism
If you notice any of these signs of autism, the pediatrician is your best source of information. He or she will recommend early interventions you can do at home. They can offer information about federally funded programs for autistic children from birth to age three. Later, your local school district will provide specialized services.

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