Looking out for Early Signs of Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex group of developmental disabilities. These disabilities cause young children significant and sometimes severe problems with interacting socially, particularly their ability to communicate.
It’s thought that the sooner a child who has ASD is identified the sooner treatment and training and other resources can be applied. (There is an array of interventions, none of them entirely effective, which can help. A very promising new intervention showing noticeable improvements is neurofeedback.) Early identification and treatment can result in improved development, and this leads to a happier and healthier child. However, it is often difficult to identify if a child is at risk. The best early indicators of ASD are developmental delays. An article in Science Daily News lists the ten most common ones:
- Rarely smiles when approached by caregivers
- Rarely tries to imitate sounds and movements made by others such as smiling and laughing
- Delayed or infrequent babbling
- Does not exhibit increasing consistency in response to his or her name being spoken as the child develops from months 6 to 12.
- Does not make gestures to communicate with the parent or caregiver by ten months.
- Poor eye contact. The infant makes no particular effort to visually interact, a central component of healthy development.
- There is little to no effort to attract caregiver attention if hungry or any other particular urge.
- There is a range of atypical body movements that can be seen. These include stiffening of the arms, hands, or legs. Also unusual body movements such as rotating the hands on the wrists, unusual postures or any other repetitive movement or behavior.
- When the caregiver reaches to pick up the child she does not respond and reach back.
- There are a variety of delays in motor development. These include delayed rolling over, pushing up or crawling.
While certainly not all delays lead to autism, the authors of the article encourage parents to become good observers. That way they will be better able to identify these types of developmental delays. While it’s generally agreed that delays or other problems are often seen before 14 months, diagnosis may be possible as early as three months.
When the potential of ASD presents itself, parents shouldn’t adopt a “wait and see” attitude. It’s best to begin intervention early while the brain is most malleable and its circuitry is still evolving. The younger the age ASD is treated, the better the chances for healthy development.
Parents who suspect their child suffers from ASD are advised to consult with their pediatrician without delay.