Signs And Symptoms Of Autism In Babies And Toddlers
If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brains remarkable plasticity. Although autism is hard to diagnose before 24 months, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.
The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of typical behaviorsnot the presence of atypical onesso they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a good baby, since the infant may seem quiet, independent, and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for.
Some autistic infants dont respond to cuddling, reach out to be picked up, or look at their mothers when being fed.
Early Signs Of Autism In A 5 Year Old
Once your toddler grows up, certain signs can be missed or confused with signs of growing up. You may want to consult your childs doctor if you see the following signs, which may mean your child has a developmental delay:
- Shows extreme behaviors like unusually aggressive, shy, or sad
- Doesnt show a wide range of emotions
- Usually isnt active
- Has trouble focusing on one activity for extended periods of time
- Doesnt respond to people
- Cant understand the difference between real and make-believe
- Doesnt play with peers
- Doesnt use grammar correctly
- Doesnt talk about daily activities
- Loses skills they once had
Signs Of Social Difficulties
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or whats going on around them.
- Doesnt know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
- Doesnt play pretend games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
- Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them.
- Doesnt seem to hear when others talk to them.
- Doesnt share interests or achievements with others .
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.
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Why You Might Wait
Autism warning signs appear at different ages in different children. In general, some parents see troublesome issues in very young children.
Autism Speaks says behavioral signs can crop up in children as young as 6 months old. But most medical professionals won’t even try to label those issues as autism until the child is at least 24 months old. Some prefer to wait until the child is 3 years old.
Some researchers disagree with that plan. In a California study, for example, researchers demonstrated diagnostic accuracy in younger children. They were screened often by age 2, and 84% who got the label had signs that persisted when they were 3 years old.
Doctors shy away from diagnosing children early due to:
- The nature of testing. While autism biomarkers are known, blood screening is only 80% accurate. MRIs can detect some autism changes, but waiting lists are long. Instead, doctors use observations and interviews. Those are hard to perform on very young children.
- Development. Some children progress at a slower rate than their peers, but they don’t have autism. Children like this may seem to fit diagnostic criteria, but they may age out of the diagnosis later.
Your doctor may resist your attempt to nail down a diagnosis despite the things you’ve seen and the concerns you have. And that could mean your child misses opportunities.
When The Diagnosis Is Not Autism
Other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, social communication disorder, or social anxiety can sometimes look like autism. If doctors do pick up on these other disorders, they can recommend appropriate therapy and/or medication.
Read what it’s like to be married to someone with Asperger syndrome.
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Why Is Autism Overlooked In These Early Screenings
There are a number of reasons why these initial autism evaluations dont result in an autism diagnosis, explains Dr. Nash. To avoid delays, parents should be aware of them.
- Both clinicians and parents gravitate toward the diagnosis with the best prognosis. Understandably, clinicians want a certain level of certainty before delivering a lifelong diagnosis of potential impairments, she says. So the initial approach is often to treat whats treatable and then reassess. For example, Lets treat this as ADHD first and see how much of the poor eye contact is related to inattention.
- Pediatricians want to give development a chance. It makes sense with children, since they do develop at different rates, says Dr. Nash. But doctors have a tendency to want to reassure parents, whose observations and worries are often discounted.
- Autism cant be diagnosed in a quick office visit. One reason pediatricians may not pick up autism, Dr. Nash observes, is because the evaluation takes too long. The standard assessment tool, called the ADOSthe Autism Diagnostic Observation Scheduletakes 30 minutes. And its meant to be paired with a structured interview with parents about current and past symptoms, and that takes several hours.
Empower yourselves as parents, Dr. Nash urges. Advocate for your child.
Very Focused On Or Attached To Unusual Objects
Babies with autism can be very focused on or attached to objects that are unusual for their age, such as long strips of cloth, utensils, chains, rocks, sticks, flowing water, or gadgets they can take apart and put together.
If your child is very focused on or attached to unusual objects, this may be an early sign of autism.
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Use Your Hand As A Tool
Babies learn to use a variety of gestures from 9-16 months, like giving, reaching, raising arms, showing, waving, and pointing.
Because children with autism may have limited use of these early gestures, they may develop unusual ways to communicate, like using your hand as a tool.
If your baby is moving or pulling your hand or body part as if its a tool, this can be an early sign of autism, particularly if they are not looking at you.
Early Signs Of Autism In Boys
Autism is seen more prevalently in boys than in girls. Therefore, the core symptoms mostly coincide with the symptoms we have mentioned to be seen in children with autism in all ages.
Here are some of the early symptoms in autistic boys:
- Doesnt make eye contact
- Has repetitive behaviors
- Doesnt like physical contact
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Signs Of Autism In Babies
Some parents recognize autism signs when their child is 6-12 months old, depending on the symptoms and their severity. Pay attention to whether or not the baby is reacting to social information and the environment. Within the first year of life, babies start to babble and use gestures like pointing, says Dr. Frazier, adding that babies may also smile at their caregivers. Baby noises should have some social function as well, and they should try communicating with parents. Babies with autism sometimes fail to communicate through sounds or gestures, and may not respond to social stimulation.
Here are other early signs of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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The Gold Standard Of Treatment For Greater Progress
Now that we know how early diagnosis and intervention has been proven to be most helpful to maximize the childs ability to function, the important question is which treatment will prove to be most effective. As stated before, ASD cannot be prevented, but there are effective treatment options that can help improve behavior, skills and language developmentand emerging treatments continue to evolve.
Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is the recognized gold standard for treating ASD. The most successful evidence-based treatment for ASD, ABA is a data-driven therapy that uses systematic, evidence-based assessments to measure outcomes in real-time measurement of behavior. This guides intervention decisions and any necessary adjustments can be made on the basis of solid data. In fact, it is the only treatment for ASD that has been designated as medically necessary and recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General.
A behavioral learning program, ABA reinforces and encourages positive behavior while discouraging negative ones. Additionally, ABA teaches children with ASD new skills and how to apply them in real life situations.
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Autism Tests Your Child May Have
You’re not the only one watching your child and looking for autism signs. Your child’s doctor is doing the same work during routine office visits. If a concern is spotted, the testing escalates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that doctors do several forms of autism checks, including:
- Developmental monitoring. Your doctor asks questions about how the child is progressing, and the doctor may talk to or interact with the child to test reactions and responses.
- Developmental screening. Tests like this are part of some well-child visits, but your doctor might also use them if you are concerned about your child. You will complete a questionnaire about behaviors you see, and your doctor will do the same thing.
- Developmental evaluation. Trained professionals, including developmental pediatricians, perform these tests. The specialist uses observations, test results, and parent questionnaires to develop a well-rounded understanding of how the child is progressing. Results help experts create early intervention programs.
It takes time to complete each step, and you can’t skip ahead and demand higher levels of testing. You must progress through each stage right on schedule. The results can help you understand what type of treatment your child needs.
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
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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.
The 5 Easy Questions That Can Help Detect Autism
A baby brings hopes for a perfect life filled with baseball games, piano recitals, and tiny voices learning to say, “Mommy,” “Daddy, and, I love you.”
Sometimes, though, those voices never come.
A child may appear to be developing normally but when it comes time for the child to speak, parents are met with silence or meaningless babble.
It might not even occur to a parent that his or her child isn’t speaking at an appropriate age level until the child spends time with peers at daycare, preschool, or even kindergarten and isn’t able to communicate.
According to the Autism Society, one in 54 children has a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. About one in six children have some kind of speech delay or impairment.
Oftentimes, children aren’t diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder until age four or five, but the child may begin showing signs by the time he or she is two.
That can be scary news for a parent to receive, but it certainly doesn’t mean anything is “wrong” with the child. It only means the parents will need to adjust their plans and expectations to include early intervention.
Think about that. There could be at least two to three years between showing signs of autism and receiving a diagnosis. That’s two to three years of therapy, at an age where early intervention can make a huge difference, that’s lost forever.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s helped countless parents hear the tiny voices of their children finally say, “I love you, Mommy.”
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Symptoms Of Autism In Young Children
With babies and toddlers, the symptoms of autism are about what the child does NOT do at a typical age. The symptoms listed below happen at a variety of ages, but they are all things that a child with autism may NOT do. These symptoms include:
- Child does not make eye contact
- Child does not smile you smile at him/her
- Child does not respond to his/her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
- Child does not follow objects visually
- Child does not point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
- Child does not follow your finger when you point at things
- Child does not make noises to get your attention
- Child does not initiate or respond to cuddling
- Child does not reach out to be picked up.
Develops Rituals And May Get Upset Over Change
Babies learn morning and nighttime routines with your help. Making activities predictable can provide opportunities for learning.
Babies usually flow with changes in routines such as ending an activity early or adding a new step.
Children with autism may develop rituals and be unwilling to complete a series of behaviors a different way.
If your child insists on certain things being the same and gets very upset over unexpected change, this may be an early sign of autism.
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The Early Signs Of Autism Unfold From 9 To 16 Months
The early signs of autism are easy to miss. Autism can be diagnosed by 18-24 months but its not usually diagnosed until 4-5 years.
This article illustrates 16 early signs of autism that unfold from 9-16 months to help you detect autism before it’s usually diagnosed.
Diagnosing autism can be difficult because there are no medical or blood tests. The diagnosis is based on behavioral symptoms or features.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism at 18 and 24 months. Autism can be diagnosed by 18-24 months, but its not usually diagnosed until 4-5 years.
The early signs of autism can have a cascading effect on brain development and lead to significant social, language, and cognitive deficits, as well as challenging behaviors, if theyre not caught early.
Which Treatment Strategies May Help Children With Autism
The main treatment for autism is called applied behavioral analysis . This is a behavioral program that breaks actions and behaviors down into small steps. It encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors. Other treatments include occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, and strategies to improve communication, such as using pictures that children can point at to let caregivers know what they want.
Heres the thing: ABA and the other treatments are helpful for children with developmental problems, no matter what their cause. There is no downside to doing them even if the child ultimately is found to have a different problem or no problem at all. They are good for the child with autism, the child with a language disability, or a late bloomer. Yes, its hard for parents to hear a diagnosis of autism. But there is much reason for hope when it comes to autism, and we should never waste time when a child needs help.
The CDCs Act Early campaign has a whole host of resources to help parents and caregivers know if a child is developing normally, or if there might be a problem. If you think there is a problem, ask for help. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire
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Whats The Outlook For Autistic Children
Autism is a spectrum of neurological differences that develop during childhood.
Although there is not a cure for autism, many in the autism community believe these neurological differences dont need to be cured. Theyre just a different way of communicating and interacting with the world.
Decades of research have shown that early intervention can have a powerful effect on health outcomes for autistic children. When therapies begin in early childhood, autistic children benefit from the incredible adaptability of their growing brain and nervous system.
Some signs of autism can appear during infancy, such as:
- limited eye contact
Early Signs Of Autism In 3 Year Old
As your kid grows older, certain signs become a little bit less clear compared to the first few months. You can get a better idea by checking the developmental milestones to see if your child is behind on some.
- Some autism red flags for 3 year olds are as follows:
- Prefers being alone,
- Doesnt like physical contact
- Has difficulty in understanding feeling
- Doesnt respond when their name is called
- Is not able to form sentences
- Speaks in flat tone
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