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Health and Fitness News

Autism: Know the Signs

Early diagnosis of autism and early intervention can improve a child’s ability to communicate, interact with others, and learn.

All parents want their children to reach developmental milestones on time.

When a child fails to walk, talk, or grow at the rate of other children, parents can’t help but worry something may be wrong. While every child develops at a different speed and most kids eventually catch up, some children miss milestone after milestone. When this happens, parents, caregivers, or doctors begin to acknowledge something isn’t quite right. Could it be autism?

Also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), autism is a diagnosis parents dread. However, the earlier it’s diagnosed and the sooner intervention treatments begin, the greater the likelihood a child on the autism spectrum will be able to communicate, interact with others, and learn. This is why it’s important for all parents to be educated on the early warning signs of autism.

The telltale signs of autism normally appear by the time a child is 2 or 3 years of age, but other delays may be noticed as early as the first few months of age. Here’s what to look for to find autism as early as possible.

Communication

A lack of communication or the way a child communicates can signal autism. Four out of 10 kids with autism are non-verbal, meaning they aren’t able to talk at all. Other communication problems include delayed speech, not using or responding to hand gestures (such as waving or pointing), speaking in a flat or a singsong tone, repeating the same words over and over, or using pronouns incorrectly.

Babies should start to babble, coo, or use gestures by they time they’re a year old, be able to speak a few words by the time they’re 16 months old, and use two-word phrases by the age of 2. Missing these milestones may indicate autism.

Social Interaction

Trouble with social skills is one of the most common signs of autism and can be detected fairly early. A baby should smile in response to interactions by the age of 6 months. A child with ASD may exhibit poor eye contact and not show acknowledgement to sounds, having his name called, or to voices. He may seem disinterested in playing with other people and prefer to be by himself. Instead of looking at people, he may fixate on an object, and he may seem disinterested or averse to physical contact or affection.

Behavior

Kids along the autism spectrum act in abnormal ways compared to other children. Talk with your pediatrician about your child’s strange behaviors. A child with autism might always be in motion and seem extra hyper. She may perform movements like rocking, twirling, jumping, or hand-flapping repeatedly. Or she may lack coordination and be especially clumsy, have a short attention span, and be aggressive with other children. Many children with autism are extremely sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or touch. When with other children, they may prefer to play alone and don’t participate in imaginative play.

Now What?

When you notice your child isn’t reaching developmental milestones or seems to be backtracking in his development, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Be proactive in your child’s healthcare. You know your child better than anyone. When something doesn’t seem right, trust your instinct.
To ensure a quick diagnosis, schedule routine, well-child doctor’s appointments for your child. At your 18-month and 24-month well-child visits, your pediatrician should perform an autism screening on your child.

The sooner a child receives intervention, the greater her chance to overcome some of the disorder. Half of autistic children in an evidence-based early intervention program for ages 3 to 5 are able to enter mainstream kindergarten programs at appropriate ages. Evidence-based interventions are available for babies as young as a year old.

So if you suspect autism, seek medical intervention, listen to your child’s pediatrician, and you can help your child enjoy the highest quality of life possible with autism.


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