Parents, Be On the Alert, For Your Little Ones
As a parent, you never want to believe that your precious little one has a problem. However, if your child suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder, catching it early, ideally as young as 18 months, can make a huge difference. The younger the child, the more efficient and the greater the impact of treatment on the symptoms. But don’t lose hope, despite your child’s age, treatment can reduce the effects of the child’s disorder and help him, or her grow and thrive in everyday life.
What is Autism?
Autism “spectrum” disorder, involves a spectrum of disorders that are closely related and share a common core of symptoms. The effects and symptoms of autism vary widely and can from very mild to very severe. Autism occurs in infancy and shows up by causing delays in early development such as talking, playing and interacting with others.
Early Detection of Autism: The Critical Role of Parents
Parents are the best candidates for spotting early signs of autism. Parents can spot behavioral patterns in their children much better than a pediatrician could catch in a 15-minute visit. Therefore, it is very important for parents to keep a watchful eye on their children during their cognitive, social and emotional milestones of early development. Here are some things you may watch for:
- Monitoring your child’s development: Educate yourself on the general range of time your child should be hitting their emotional and cognitive milestones.
- Take action if you’re concerned: Of course, there is a wide range of developmental phases your child goes through, but if they are passed the extended mark, don’t hesitate to bring this up to your child’s doctor.
- Don’t accept a “wait and see” approach: Developmentally delayed children are no likely to grow out of their problems, so do not risk losing valuable time to treat your child’s developmental delay accordingly, whether it is autism or not. To gain skills in your child’s area of delay, they need specific targeted treatment.
- Trust your instincts: Sometimes doctors can miss “red flags” in a child’s development, so listen to your gut if you feel like something is wrong, and schedule follow-up appointments. Seek a second opinion if need be.
Signs & Symptoms of Autism in Babies & Toddlers
- Doesn’t make eye contact
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at (by 6 months)
- Doesn’t respond to their name or a familiar voice (by 12 months)
- Doesn’t follow objects visually
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point to things
- Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
- Doesn’t wave goodbye or use gestures to communicate (by 12 months)
- Doesn’t reach to be picked up or respond to cuddling
- Doesn’t play with others or share interest and enjoy them
Signs | Symptoms of Inflexibility in Autism
- Follows a rigid routine (insists on following the same route to school)
- Has difficulty adapting to changes in environment (furniture rearranged)
- Obsessively lines things up (such as toys) in a certain order
- Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest (schedules, maps, sports statistics)
- Repeats the same movement over and over again (i.e. flapping hands, rocking, twirling, head banging, staring at lights) known as self-stimulatory behavior.
Prenatal Factors That May Contribute to Autism
- Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first three months
- The age of the mother
- Nutritional deficiencies in early pregnancy, usually not getting enough folic acid
- Maternal infections during pregnancy
- Exposure to chemical pollutants, including metals and pesticides while pregnant
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