As a parent, you never want to believe that your precious bundle has a problem. But when it comes to autism, catching it early—ideally by the age of eighteen months—makes a huge difference.
But no matter your child’s age, don’t lose hope. Treatment can reduce the disorder’s effects and help your child learn, grow, and thrive.
Does My Child Have Autism?
In reality, there is not just one tell-tale sign but there are some “absolute indicators” otherwise known as “red flags”, that should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician. Here they are:
- If your child hasn’t really smiled or shown any type of eye contact or happy expression by 6 months or afterwards, this might be an early warning characteristic of autism.
- If your child is 9 months old or older, he/she should be sharing sounds, smiles or other facial expressions. If this isn’t the case, let your pediatrician know.
- Once he/she has hit 12 months of age, your child should be pointing, showing, reaching or waving.
- By 16 months of age, your child should be saying at least a couple of words.
- By 2 years, your child should be expressing 2-word phrases by him/herself, (without immitating).
- If you notice any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age, this might be an indicator of Autism.
- If your child speaks with little variation in pitch, odd intonation, irregular rhythm or just a strange voice, this could be a sign of autism.
- Does your child repeat movements with objects over and over or repeat certain movements with his/her arms, hands, body or fingers? This is a possible red flag.
While it’s important not to be too over-analytical or alarmed about certain behaviors, you also want to keep in mind that the earlier your child is diagnosed with autism, the earlier they can begin treatment/therapy and the better the chance for improvement.
How Early Can Autism Be Detected?
Certain experiments are helping researchers identify the signs of autism at increasingly earlier ages.
“For parents“, says Stone, director of Vanderbilt’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, “the average age of first concern is about 17 months, though a diagnosis isn’t typically made until age 3. That’s a long time to be concerned and not know what to do.”
Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., Child Psychiatrist stated “Most mommies and daddies tell me “I thought there was a problem at 14 or 15 months…and [the doctors] told me let’s wait and see because sometimes some kids grow out of it.’ Well, that’s not a good answer. We’ve got to make the distinction between less important problems, where we can wait and see from core problems, which involve a lack of reciprocity and a lack of getting to know your world. For these core problems, we have to act on it yesterday. We can’t wait nine months, we can’t wait two months.”
Just one sign of autism may not be enough to really prove that your child needs to be tested – but if you see 2 or more of the above-mentioned, put your mind at ease and speak to your doctor.