Early Signs of Autism

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With one in 50 young children currently being diagnosed with autism, it’s natural to wonder if your child is exhibiting the signs. The idea of having a child with autism is scary, but the younger he or she is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. Early diagnosis makes a big difference.

Ideally, it is best to diagnose autism by the time a baby is 18 months old, but infants can begin exhibiting the symptoms as early as six months old. Many children are not diagnosed until around the age of four or older. Children’s brain development is more susceptible to learning when they are younger, so getting them into therapy as soon as possible is essential. Educate yourself on the early signs of autism so you can get your child help right away.

The signs and symptoms of autism vary greatly. Some children have barely noticeable characteristics while some require intense behavioral therapy for many years. The following signs of autism are most common in children under one year of age:

  • Not smiling when approached by caregivers. Infants usually smile when they are smiled at, but babies with developmental issues tend not to respond to smiles from caregivers.
  • Lack of gestures. Babies often point, show their parents things and wave hello and goodbye, but autistic children tend not to do these things.
  • Lack of babbling and talking. Babies often babble before they begin trying to form words. By the age of 12 months, they should be babbling at their parents and other caregivers, holding “conversations.”
  • Repetitive actions. Rather than playing with toys as they’re meant to be played with, autistic children will often engage in repetitive motions, such as spinning a wheel on a truck repeatedly. Some repetition is completely normal, but excessively repetitive movements are a warning sign.
  • Avoiding eye contact. Alert babies are constantly looking around, and that includes making eye contact. Most children with autism avoid eye contact. This is a common sign.
  • Lack of shared enjoyment. Most children have a desire to interact with others from a very young age. If your child doesn’t seek out this type of enjoyment and doesn’t seem to enjoy interacting with you, it may be a sign of autism.
  • Not responding to his or her name. Due to their difficulties paying attention and understanding language, autistic children usually do not respond to their own name when it’s called.
  • Not following an adult’s pointed finger. A typical 12 month old child will look when his parent points at something.
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up. If you go to take your child out of the crib and are never met with extended arms, this could be a warning sign.

If you suspect your child might be autistic, talk to their doctor right away. A child psychiatrist will be an important part of the evaluation process and can provide a valuable recommendation for a treatment plan personalized to suit your child’s needs. Dr. Lawrence Tucker is a Orange County psychiatrist who specializes in Autistic Disorders. For more information on Autistic Disorders and the evaluation process, click here.