What Are The Risk Factors For Autism
Risk factors for autism include:
- Low birth weight
- Being exposed to a medication called valproate during the mothers pregnancy
- Older parents
Boys are diagnosed with ASD more often than girls.
Studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Learn more about vaccines and autism from theCDC.
How Is Autism Treated
There is no cure currently available for autism. However, specific programs and therapy can help children develop skills and decrease behaviors that cause them problems.
There are several therapies that work well for children with ASD:
- Applied behavior analysis :Hundreds of studies have proven this therapy works well for all kids with autism, from mild to severe. It teaches children how to communicate with others. It also teaches them to avoid negative behaviors such as hurting themselves.
- Occupational therapy : OT teaches children the skills they need to perform the activities of daily life. This includes motor skills, learning how to manage sensitivity to light, sound and touch , and more.
- Speech or physical therapy: Some children may also need help with their speech or physical movements.
Many parents also find a tool called Social Stories to be helpful. These are a fun way to prepare kids for social situations. The stories are written from the childs point of view. They use words, photos and drawings to show the child what to expect.
There is no medicine for autism, but there aremedicationsthat can help with problems like trouble sleeping or violent tantrums. Children may also be prescribed medication to help with other problems that often occur with autism. These include depression, anxiety and hyperactivity.
The Importance Of Sensory Play
Autistic children may also have difficulties with sensory processing. This means they may have trouble processing sights, sounds, smells, textures, or anything else that stimulates the senses.
As a result, you may want to explore toys that speak to your childs proprioception , vestibular input , and tactile stimulation .
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Restricted Or Repetitive Behaviors Or Interests
People with ASD have behaviors or interests that can seem unusual. These behaviors or interests set ASD apart from conditions defined by only problems with social communication and interaction.
Examples of restricted or repetitive interests and behaviors related to ASD can include:
- Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Plays with toys the same way every time
- Is focused on parts of objects
- Gets upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
- Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
- Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
Can You Detect Autism In Newborns
Autism spectrum disorder can be identified in babies as young as two months old. Although subtle signs can be missed if not observed closely, there are certain red flags.
Caregivers should observe the developmental milestones of their children to be able to detect early signs of autism. Parents should be aware of the eye contact of the newborns and follow the development.
From birth, all babies will look more at the eye part of faces. According to studies conducted with babies with eye-tracking technology, lack of eye contact is one of the signs that the newborn may have autism.
The following are some of the other signs seen in newborns as they grow older.
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Behavioural Signs In Infants Between 6 And 12 Months Can Predict Asd
A 2005 Canadian study published in the International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, with over 200 participants was the first to pinpoint specific behavioural signs in infants as young as 12 months that can predict, with remarkable accuracy, whether a child will develop autism.
Autism is one of the most prevalent disorders today, and while a bio marker was finally found last year to help with early diagnosis, its normally only 80% effective, and so far mostly being used on higher risk infants. Also it is found using an MRI, and wait times can be long. Most doctors instead must rely on parent observations, observing the child themselves, and using standardized tools like the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers . However these tools are made for children who are 18 months and older, a long time especially when early detection and intervention can help with many of the frustrations that develop from communication problems.
Because of the research done, a scale was developed to help doctors with early assessment in infants as young as 6 months . The Autism Observation Scale for Infants has been a fantastic new tool to help parents and doctors get an early diagnosis.
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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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asd
Every person with ASD is unique, so the timing and severity of the first signs and symptoms can vary widely. Some children with ASD show signs within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms may not become obvious until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD appear to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills and/or start losing skills.
During infancy , a child may show symptoms that include:
- Limited or no eye contact
- No babbling
- Appearing not to hear
- Playing with toys in an unusual or limited manner
- Showing more interest in objects instead of people
- Starting language skills but then stopping or losing those skills
- Showing repetitive movements with their fingers, hands, arms or head
Up to 2 years of age, there may be continuing symptoms from infancy. A child may also:
- Focus only on certain interests
- Be unable to have reciprocal social interactions
- Move in unusual ways, such as tilting their head, flexing their fingers or hands, opening their mouth or sticking out their tongue
- Have no interest in playing with other children
- Repeat words or phrases without appearing to understand them
- Have behavioural issues, including self-injury
- Have trouble controlling their emotions
- Like to have things a certain way, such as always eating the same food
Possible signs of ASD at any age:
How Does Autism Affect Communication
About 40% of kids with autism spectrum disorders donât talk at all, and between 25% and 30% develop some language skills during infancy but then lose them later. Some children with ASD start talking later in life.
Most have some problems with communication, including:
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice
- Problems with pronouns
- Not using or rarely using common gestures , and not responding to them
- Inability to stay on topic when talking or answering questions
- Not recognizing sarcasm or joking
- Trouble expressing needs and emotions
- Not getting signals from body language, tone of voice, and expressions
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Early Signs Of Autism In Babies Aged 0
Shortly after they are born, babies begin to smile and coo at people around them. By the time they turn 2 months old, they are able to pay attention to faces.
If the child has autism spectrum disorder, this may not be the case. If a child doesnt smile, or smile as big, and is not showing any warm expression, it may be a sign of autism spectrum disorder.
The following signs can also be seen by the time the baby turns 3 months old:
- Doesnt respond to loud noises,
- Doesnt grasp objects,
- Doesnt follow objects with their eyes,
- Doesnt babble,
- Doesnt point to things,
- Doesnt respond to their names,
- Cant stand when supported,
- Doesnt babble
Lack Of Eye Contact And Joint Attention
Joint attention refers to two people sharing a focus on the same object after one alerts the other to the item using verbal or nonverbal cues. For example, a parent or caregiver will point to a toy or tell the child about it, and the child will then look at the toy. Joint attention is an important way of connecting and interacting with other people.
According to a 2016 article in PLOS ONE , from about 9 months old, a baby should be able to make regular eye contact and share focus with their caregivers.
Autistic babies can find it challenging to pick up on these social cues and may ignore the person or the object that they are pointing out.
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Early Signs Of Autism In Babies
Parents can sometimes detect early signs of autism spectrum disorder in babies under 12 months old. Here’s what you need to know.
Watching your baby grow is an unforgettable experience. But while every child develops at their 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 monthsand maybe even earlier, says Thomas Frazier, Ph.D, 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 managing the condition.
Reduced Emotion In Facial Expressions
Facial expressions are a nonverbal way to communicate thoughts and feelings.
Research on emotional expression in autistic infants is limited, but in studies involving school-age children, researchers have found that autistic children display less emotion through facial expressions than children with nonautistic development.
That doesnt necessarily mean autistic children are feeling less emotion, just that less of it shows on their faces when they do.
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Later Warning Signs Include:
Its important to note that each and every child is unique. Autism is a complex spectrum disorder and symptoms will range widely from person to person. Each child will vary depending on their measured intelligence, social interaction, communication, behaviors, sensory response, and motor skills. For example, in terms of repetitive behaviors , where do they fall on a scale from mild to intense?
Pay special attention to playtime. If a child under the age of two shows zero interest in showing or sharing toys or prefers to line their toys up instead of playing with, they should be evaluated.
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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Screen For Autism: A Closer Look
The screen used is already published and is available online for free download. It is called the CSBS DP IT checklist .
The questionnaire takes about five minutes to complete, Pierce says.
Among the questions:
- Do you know when your child is happy and when your child is upset?
- Does your child do things just to get you to laugh?
- Does your child string sounds together, such as uh oh, mamma, gaga, bye-bye?
- When you call your child’s name, does he/she respond by looking or turning toward you?
- Does your child wave to greet people?
- Does your child smile or laugh while looking at you?
“This is not an autism-specific screen,” Pierce tells WebMD. “It’s a screen to catch autism and other developmental delays.”
The doctors screened 10,479 infants. Of them, 1,318 children failed. Pierce evaluated 184 of the children who failed the screen and were evaluated for autism, autism spectrum disorder, language delays, or other developmental delays. The researchers also tracked 41 of the 9,161 children who passed the checklist, who served as a comparison group.
To date, 32 of the children got a final or provisional diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder, which encompasses a wider spectrum of developmental problems. Another 46 received a false-positive diagnosis of autism, uncovered with evaluation.
It is critical, Pierce says, that a doctor who uses the screen has access to a center where he can refer patients for more evaluation.
Communication: Early Signs Of Autism
In the first year of life, childrens social and communication development is an important area to watch for early signs of autism. Social and communication development includes things like learning to smile, make eye contact, and use gestures.
Social interaction and communicationIf young children are autistic, they might:
- not consistently use eye contact to get someones attention for example, they might not always look at you and then at a snack to show you they want it, or not look back towards you when they see something that excites them
- rarely point to or hold up objects to show you things for example, they might not point to a dog and look back at you to make sure youve seen it too, or they might drop a toy in your lap and walk away instead of holding it up and looking at you
- not consistently respond to their name being called
- not consistently use gestures on their own for example, they might not wave bye-bye or clap without being told to, or without copying someone else whos waving or clapping
- not consistently smile at you or other familiar people without you smiling at them first
- rarely copy other peoples actions, like combing their hair when you do it
- not sound like theyre having a conversation with you when they babble
- not understand simple, one-step instructions for example, Give me the block or Show me the dog.
Relationships and playIf young children are autistic, they might:
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My Child Has Signs Of Autismnow What
If your child has signs of autism, Dr. Frazier advises scheduling a visit to your pediatrician right away. You’ll discuss developmental concerns, and the doctor will evaluate your baby for autism. “We have evidence that suggests the quicker you can get a diagnosis, the earlier you can enroll in developmental and behavioral interventions,” says Dr. Frazier.
Early intervention is meant help your baby cope with autism symptoms and possibly even reverse them. As your child gets older, intervention might include speech therapy, occupational therapy, mental health counseling, and whatever else experts believe will help your child thrive. The ultimate goal is “making the symptoms more manageable and enhancing life as much as possible,” says Dr. Silverman.
Social Communication And Interaction Skills
Social communication and interaction skills can be challenging for people with ASD.
Examples of social communication and social interaction characteristics related to ASD can include:
- Avoids or does not keep eye contact
- Does not respond to name by 9 months of age
- Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age
- Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
- Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age
- Does not share interests with others
- Does not point or look at what you point to by 18 months of age
- Does not notice when others are hurt or sad by 24 months of age
- Does not pretend in play
- Shows little interest in peers
- Has trouble understanding other peoples feelings or talking about own feelings at 36 months of age or older
- Does not play games with turn taking by 60 months of age
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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.