Early Warning Signs of Autism
You should definitely and immediately have your child evaluated first by your pediatrician and if needed, then by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician who specializes in detecting developmental disorders if your child:
• Does not babble or coo by 12 months of age
• Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months of age
• Does not say single words by 16 months of age
• Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own spontaneously (rather than just repeating what someone says to him or her) by 24 months of age
• Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age.
If your pediatrician disagrees with you that there is a developmental problem at this stage and wants to "give it more time", but you feel strongly that there is just something "not right" with your child, follow your gut instinct and refer your child yourself to your local early intervention office for evaluation. Sometimes general pediatricians are not trained to pick up on all the signs of autism like a specialists is. YOU ARE YOUR CHILD'S GREATEST ADVOCATE!
DO NOT DELAY GETTING YOUR CHILD ASSESSED.
EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY TO RECOVERY
Red Flags That Could Be Signs of Autism
Parents, teachers, and other caregivers should be aware of the following "red flags":
- The child does not respond to his/her name
- The child cannot explain what he/she wants.
- Language skills or speech are delayed.
- The child doesn't follow directions.
- At times, the child seems to be deaf.
- The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
- The child doesn't point or wave bye-bye.
- The child used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn't.
- The child throws intense or violent tantrums.
- The child has odd movement patterns.
- The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
- The child doesn't know how to play with toys.
- The child doesn't smile when smiled at.
- The child has poor eye contact.
- The child gets "stuck" on things over and over and can't move on to other things.
- The child seems to prefer to play alone.
- The child gets things for him/herself only.
- The child is very independent for his/her age.
- The child seems to be in his/her "own world."
- The child seems to tune people out.
- The child is not interested in other children.
- The child walks on his/her toes, flaps his/her hands, continuously rocks or bangs head (self-injurious behavior).
- The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants).
- Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.
- Over-sensitivity to textures, sounds, smells.
When should a doctor evaluate a child for autism?
Doctors should do a "developmental screening" at every well-baby and well-child visit, through the preschool years. In this screening, the doctor asks questions related to normal development that allows him or her to measure a specific child's development. These questions are often more specific versions of the red flags listed above, such as Does the child cuddle like other children? Or, Does the child direct your attention by holding up objects for you to see? If the doctor finds that a child either has definite signs of autism, or has a high number of red flags, he or she will send the child to a specialist in child development or another type of health care professional, so the child can be tested for autism. The specialist will rule out other disorders and use tests specific to autism. Then he or she will decide whether a formal diagnosis of autism or another disorder is appropriate.
When do children usually show signs of autism?
In most cases, the symptoms of autism are measurable by certain screening tools at 18 months of age. However, parents and experts in autism treatment can usually detect symptoms before this time. In general, a formal diagnosis of autism can be made when a child is two, but is usually made when a child is between two and three, when he or she has a noticeable delay in developing language skills.
What free services are available to a child with autism?
According to U.S. Public Law 105-17: Individuals with Disabilities Act-IDEA (1997), the child's primary health care provider is required to refer the family to an early intervention service. In addition, children age three and older are entitled by law to a free and appropriate public education. In some states, the law extends these services to all diagnosed children from birth to age three. These services vary by state, but include special education and related services or treatment programs. If the child is under age three, the family should consult the zero-to-three service system in their community. The local school district can provide services for a family if the child is three or older. In either case, the local school district, the state education agency, and the local or state health departments should provide referrals for the necessary services.