Many parents of children with autism noticed differences in social, communication and fine motor skills in their child somewhere between six months and one year old. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism can be diagnosed as early as two years old. Even so, autism is often not diagnosed until around age four.
Early identification and diagnosis is important because early intervention services boost language and cognitive skills as well as improve social skills. According to Autism Speaks, a national autism advocacy organization, early intervention is “your child’s best hope for the future.” That means, the sooner your child is diagnosed, the earlier services and interventions can begin.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), suggest that young children be screened for autism at both 18 and 24 months using the M-CHAT-R, which is a series of questions to help doctors identify those at risk of autism. During your child’s regular check-ups, your doctor might ask questions about whether your child points or looks at something when you point, uses make-believe when playing, shows you things, responds when you call his name or imitates what you do. This tool isn’t used for diagnosis, but rather to identify those who are at risk. Not all children who have a “positive” will be diagnosed with autism, however, it gives doctors a guideline for referring young children for further evaluation.
While it is important for doctors to screen for autism, parents are the first ones to notice developmental delays and other early signs of autism. Knowing what to look for can help you explain your concerns, if any, to your child’s pediatrician. Signs of autism in toddlers include:
- Not making eye contact
- Not smiling when smiled at
- Not responding to name
- Not following objects with their eyes
- Not pointing or using gestures to communicate
- Not looking in the direction you point
- Not making noises to get your attention
- Not responding to cuddling
- Not imitating movements and facial expressions
- Not reaching to be held
- Isn’t interested in interacting with others
- Doesn’t ask for help
It is important to remember that all children develop differently and while the previous behaviors are considered red flags, if your child is exhibiting them, it does not necessarily mean he has autism, however, you should make your pediatrician aware and, if you are concerned, ask for a referral to a specialist. As a parent, you know your child better than any doctor; waiting to see what happens isn’t always the best course of action. When concerned, take action and see a specialist.
Published On: August 12, 2014