Does Maternal Weight Affect A Child’s Autism Risk
Research from the University of Utah published in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics suggests a potential link between excess pregnancy pounds and autism risk. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women gain no more than 35 pounds during pregnancy . In the study, incremental 5-pound increases in weight above ACOG’s recommendation were linked to a slightly higher, yet significant risk for autism.
Previous studies indicate a possible connection to a woman’s pre-pregnancy body mass index , pregnancy weight gain, and a child’s risk of autism. One theory is that excess body fat may change a woman’s hormone levels or cause inflammation that affects fetal brain development. “Obesity rates and autism rates have both gone up over the past decades, yet that doesn’t mean the two are connected,” says Anna Maria Wilms Floet, M.D., a behavioral developmental pediatrician at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore. The bottom line: “Women should watch their weight gain during pregnancy to prevent problems like diabetes and high blood pressure,” says Dr. Wilms Floet.
Strong Interest In Unusual Sensory Experiences
Babies with autism can show very strong interest in unusual sensory experiences, such as excessive rubbing of certain textures, looking out the side of their eye or closely inspecting a block or toy train as it rolls by, or licking objects.
If your child shows strong interest in unusual sensory experiences, this may be an early sign of autism.
Has An Unusual Intelligence Level
Being either far advanced or obviously delayed for their age could be a cause for concern. Some autistic children have an amazing mathematical or musical talent, known as a savant ability. Others are cognitively delayed. If you notice your child is on either end of the spectrum, and is clearly at a different intelligence level than the majority of their peers, its worth noting. That being said, some kids on the spectrum have a normal intelligence level, so the absence of unusual intelligence does not rule out autism.
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Repetitive Patterns Of Behaviour
Regarding restricted/repetitive patterns of behaviour, some children show a strong preference for, or aversion to, sensory stimuli. For example, a child may crave visual input by staring at a fan for a long periods of time. Or they may be overly distressed by typical household noises, haircuts or being touched.
Children often become attached to specific objects such as a block or a notebook that they must carry around with them yet show little interest in toys. They can become intensely interested in things like door knobs or toilet seats, or become obsessed with a familiar cartoon character or toy.
They may repetitively wave their arms or hands, rock or spin when excited. Some children repeat actions over and over, such as turning a light switch on and off. Some focus on small parts of an object rather than the entire object .
Others may insistently line objects up such as toys or family members shoes and become distressed if the objects are moved. They may be aggressive towards others or may injure themselves. They often crave predictability and struggle when their routines are disrupted.
What Should I Do If I Think My Child Might Have Early Signs Of Autism
If your child has exhibited early signs of autism, talk to your pediatrician. He or she can use a standardized screening tool to determine if your child has autism or is at risk.
While there is no cure for autism, early intervention can make a big difference. Behavioral therapies can help kids develop social and language skills, for example, and medications can treat impulsive behavior and hyperactivity.
If you havent spotted any of these symptoms but are still worried your child has autism, try not to let your fears get in the way of enjoying your time with your son. Pay attention to his behavior patterns , and ask questions of your pediatrician. Chances are he’s just fine!
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What Are The Signs Of Asd In Babies
Diagnosing ASD is challenging. One reason for this is that the condition presents differently in all individuals.
Babies can reach developmental milestones at slightly different ages, even when they do not have any health conditions. However, some developmental differences indicate that a baby may be autistic. These include:
Excessive Interest In Particular Objects Or Activities
Babies readily shift their attention between people and objects creating opportunities to learn from social interaction.
Babies with autism may show excessive interest in particular objects or activities and can get stuck or overly focused on these.
This interest may be so intense that its difficult to shift their attention away from an object of interest to something else.
An intense interest can lead to skills that are advanced for their age, such as building with blocks, or learning the shapes of letters and numbers, and can be missed as a sign of autism.
If your child shows excessive interest in particular objects or activities, this may be an early sign of autism.
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Early Signs Of Autism In Babies
Learn about the signs and symptoms of autism in babies from 0 to 12 months.
Watching your baby grow is an unforgettable experience. But while every child develops at her own level, failing to reach certain milestones could raise red flags. Some parents recognize signs of autism spectrum disorder when their baby is around 6-12 months and maybe even earlier, says Thomas Frazier, PhD, a clinical psychologist, autism researcher, and chief science officer of Autism Speaks. Here are the early signs of autism in babies, and why prompt diagnosis is key to treating the condition.
What Age Does Autism Usually Show Up
The behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorder often appear early in the childs development. Many children show symptoms of autism between 12 and 18 months of age or earlier, but in others autism may not become obvious until the age of 2 or 3 years. The age of diagnosis, as well as the range and severity of symptoms, can vary widely and so professional evaluation is critical.
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Develops Symptoms After Early Childhood
Your child developed and behaved like most children until they reached the age of 6 or older. Then symptoms that seem to point to autism sprang from nowhere.
In order to for be diagnosed with autism, your child must have first shown symptoms at an early age, even if those symptoms only caused problems in later years. A brand new symptom at age 12 or 14 may look a little like autism, but the likely cause is something else.
What To Do If Youre Worried
If your child is developmentally delayed, or if youve observed other red flags for autism, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician right away. In fact, its a good idea to have your child screened by a doctor even if he or she is hitting the developmental milestones on schedule. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children receive routine developmental screenings, as well as specific screenings for autism at 9, 18, and 30 months of age.
Schedule an autism screening. A number of specialized screening tools have been developed to identify children at risk for autism. Most of these screening tools are quick and straightforward, consisting of yes-or-no questions or a checklist of symptoms. Your pediatrician should also get your feedback regarding your childs behavior.
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Classic Sign Of Autism Appears In Early Infancy Study Says
by Virginia Hughes / 6 November 2013
Baby boys who will later be diagnosed with autism show a loss of interest in other peoples eyes between 2 and 6 months of age, according to a study published today in Nature1. This is the earliest behavioral marker of autism found to date.
The researchers found that the steeper the decline in eye fixation over the first two years of life, the greater the level of social and communication impairment at 2 years old.
Now we know that it is possible to develop a quantitative assay in early infancy that is predictive of both autism and level of social disability, says lead investigator Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Researchers have found that some baby sibs have distinctive brain-wave patterns and a loss of interest in faces beginning as early as 6 months of age. The new study uncovers changes in brain development even earlier.
Were most excited about the fact that these are some of the earliest signs of autism weve ever observed, says co-investigator Warren Jones, director of research at the Marcus Autism Center. Were measuring what babies see, but more importantly, what they dont see.
Early Signs In Infants And Toddlers
Early signs of autism can often be detected in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder.
Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention , or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways, like lining them up or focusing on parts of toys rather than the whole. Parents who notice these signs, or are concerned their children are not meeting developmental milestones, should contact their pediatricians and request a developmental screening. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening of all infants for autism as part of 18-month and 24-month well-baby examinations.
Early diagnosis and early intervention are critical. Studies show that about half of children with autism who are in an evidence-based early intervention program from age 3-5 can gain enough skills to be mainstreamed for kindergarten. There are now evidence based interventions for babies as young as 12 months old, and studies are underway to design treatments for 9 month old babies at risk for autism.
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Inspecting Toys Rather Than Playing With Them
Most young kids will inspect a toy before playing with it. But a child with autism may not move past the inspection phase, Pandey says. So while a child without autism will race a car along the floor, or fly an airplane through the air, a child with autism might continue to spin the cars tires or examine the bottom of the plane. Their interest is in the parts of the object rather than the whole, she says.
If another child tries to interact or play with him, a child with autism may not know how to react.
Little Or No Imitatin Other People Of Pretending
They use a variety of functional actions like putting a sippy cup in their mouth to drink and a spoon in their mouth to eat.
From this, they learn to pretend in play they may offer you a sip with a cup or bottle, give Teddy bear a hug and cover him with a blanket or jiggle a pan with invisible stuff inside to pretend to cook.
Children with autism usually have strengths in using objects in solitary play.
If your child is showing little or no imitating of others, and is not beginning to pretend in play, it can be an early sign of autism.
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Prenatal Factors That May Contribute To Autism
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months.
Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid.
The age of the mother and father
Complications at or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight and neonatal anemia
Maternal infections during pregnancy.
Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, while pregnant.
More research on these prenatal risk factors is needed, but if youre pregnant or trying to conceive, it cant hurt to take steps now to reduce your babys risk of autism.
Reducing the risk of autism: Tips for expectant mothers
Take a multivitamin. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Its not clear whether this will also help reduce risk of autism, but taking the vitamins cant hurt.
Ask about SSRIs. Women who are taking an SSRI should talk with a clinician about all the risks and benefits of these drugs. Untreated depression in a mother can also affect her childs well-being later on, so this is not a simple decision to make.
Practice prenatal care. Eating nutritious food, trying to avoid infections, and seeing a clinician for regular check-ups can increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy child.
Source: Harvard Health Publications
Loss Of Language Or Social Skills
Children with autism may seem unwilling to speak or verbalize even though they used to do so. For example, a baby who used to babble or make nonsense noises might stop as he gets older. Children with autism may also withdraw from social situations even though they used to seem comfortable playing with or around other kids, according to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
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Unresponsive To His Or Her Name
By 12 months of age, most children will look up or respond when someone calls them by name. If a child does not, that may be indicative of autism, the CDC says. These kids may also seem not to hear their parents or other people, or they may struggle to understand or follow simple commands or instructions.
Following A Red Object
Lay your baby on his/her back and place a pillow on each side of the babys head, so that he/she cant turn his/her head from side to side very much.
Hold a red ball in your hand and move it slowly from left to right and back again about one foot away from the babys face.
What is the distance, approximately, that your baby follows the balls movement with his/her eyes? If you do this four times, how many times does baby follow the ball, even if he/she scans only a small distance?
Generally, you should expect a typically developing infant to scan and follow the object with his/her eyes all the way to about a foot to the left and to the right. The older the child, the more smoothly he/she will be able to scan without any blinking or jumping5.
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Autism Signs By 12 Months
She doesn’t say single words.
She doesn’t use gestures such as waving or shaking her head.
She doesn’t point to objects or pictures.
She can’t stand when supported.
It’s important to note that these criteria aren’t conclusive evidence of autism. “Theyre simply things we look for to determine if we need to further assess the baby, says Mandi Silverman, PsyD, MBA, senior director of the Autism Center at the Child Mind Institute. Another social or developmental factor may be to blame.
How Early Can You Detect The First Signs Of Autism
Parents want to know as early as possible if their child has autism, especially if they already have a child with autism. Children with a sibling who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder are considered to be at a high risk, up to 7%, of also being on the autism spectrum2,4.
Parents, you are in the ideal position to observe your child in all his/her moods and situations, and at a variety of times during the day and night. With some training, you can play an active partnership role with your family doctor or pediatrician to observe and record your childs development.
Included in this article, you will find four simple tests you can do at home when your child is as young as two months old. These tests will give you real numbers that you can share with your doctor at your childs next developmental check-up.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays and disabilities during regular doctor visits at 9 months, 18 months and 24 or 30 months.
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Object And Image Scanning
Show your child two objects: 1) a colorful painting and 2) an interesting object, e.g. a rattle. Hold one thing in each hand, with your hands about two feet apart. You should be about one foot away from your babys face. Your baby can be lying down or sitting in a recliner or high chair.
Count how many times your child scans between the object and the picture in one minute.
You may consider repeating this test over a period of a few days and noting the average number of scans.
Generally, you should expect a typically developing infant to scan between four and eight times per minute. The older the child, the more times he/she should scan between the two objects5.
Can Reducing Your Exposure To Air Pollution Help
“Perhaps the most convincing and consistent environmental association with autism risk to date is pregnancy exposure to air pollution,” says Dr. Fallin. Multiple studies have shown this connection: One by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that the risk doubled for children born to women exposed to high levels of pollution, particularly in the third trimester. The higher the levels of exposure, the greater the risk.
However, that’s just part of the story.
“The challenge has become understanding what component of air pollution may be relevant, as this implicates hundreds of chemicals from multiple sources,” explains Dr. Fallin. In general, the American Lung Association recommends several ways to protect yourself from air pollution: for instance, fill your gas tank up after dark, exercise away from highly-trafficked areas and, when pollution levels are high, take your workout indoors. You can check out your daily air quality levels at www.airnow.gov.
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