Kids Are Getting Diagnosed Sooner
There’s no laboratory or medical test for detecting autism, so doctors must rely on behavioral signs. In the past, many were reluctant to label a child as autistic until symptoms became obvious. “The average age for diagnosis had been about 3.5, with many children diagnosed much later,” says Amy Wetherby, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. But that’s changing.
One reason is that pediatricians are becoming more aware of autism. At the same time, autism specialists are better at identifying early telltale signs such as a lack of babbling or pointing. “Most children with autism will show some signs of developmental disruption by their first birthday,” says Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., an autism researcher at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.
And while no one is yet diagnosing autism in children that young, doctors can now make a reliable assessment by 24 months when a child’s brain is still rapidly developing. “If we can intervene while a child’s brain is very immature, it will be much easier to help change her behavior,” Dr. Wetherby says.
Why Monitoring Developmental Milestones For Autism Can Be Misleading
Sometimes, children with autism miss multiple milestones and have clear and obvious developmental delays. Often, however, missed milestones can be masked or even invisible. This is because children with autism aren’t simply delayed they learn and behave differently from their typical peers.
In addition, autism is rarely obvious from birth. Many children with autism develop normally for a period of time and then either slow down, develop idiosyncratically, or actually regress. Because of these issues, it can be tough to spot autism just by watching for missed developmental milestones.
Whats It Like To Have Autism Spectrum Disorder
A kid with autism might have trouble:
- talking and learning the meaning of words
- making friends or fitting in
- dealing with changes
- dealing with loud noises, bright lights, or crowds
Kids also might move in an unusual way or do the same thing over and over .
A kid with autism may have a little trouble with these things, or a lot. Some kids need only a little bit of help, and others might need a lot of help with learning and doing everyday stuff.
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How Autistic Delays Can Be Masked Or Hidden
Some children with autism have severe cognitive delays, behavioral challenges, or physical “stims” that make it obvious that something is wrong. But many autistic children have few or mild delays, challenges, or stims. When that’s the case, developmental delays may be hard to spot.
Here are a few groups of children whose developmental delays may not be obvious until social, emotional, or communication demands increase :
Autisms Genetic Risk Factors
Research tells us that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child . Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism by themselves. They simply increase risk for the disorder
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How Parents Can Spot The Warning Signs
As a parent, youre in the best position to spot the earliest warning signs of autism. You know your child better than anyone and observe behaviors and quirks that a pediatrician, in a quick fifteen-minute visit, might not have the chance to see. Your childs pediatrician can be a valuable partner, but dont discount the importance of your own observations and experience. The key is to educate yourself so you know whats typical and whats not.
Monitor your childs development. Autism involves a variety of developmental delays, so keeping a close eye on whenor ifyour child is hitting the key social, emotional, and cognitive milestones is an effective way to spot the problem early on. While developmental delays dont automatically point to autism, they may indicate a heightened risk.
Take action if youre concerned. Every child develops at a different pace, so you dont need to panic if your child is a little late to talk or walk. When it comes to healthy development, theres a wide range of typical. But if your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or you suspect a problem, share your concerns with your childs doctor immediately. Dont wait.
Regression of any kind is a serious autism warning sign
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.
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Regression Can Be Real Or Apparent
Over the past few years, there have been some debates as to whether regression, in which there is a loss of acquired communication or social skills, is a real phenomenon or an apparent one. Some have wondered whether parent reports were exaggerated.
Video records, however, combined with studies, make it clear that at least some children do in fact regress into autism while others either show signs of autism in infancy or plateau in their development.
A relatively new set of studies looking at the younger siblings of children with autism in their earliest months are discovering that subtle regression is quite common. While parents may notice issues such as loss of language or eye contact, researchers are noticing small losses in the areas of motor skills and response to social cues.
Such regression typically occurs before age 3. According to researcher Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, upwards of 20% to 30% recall a period when their children lost social and communication skills in the second year of life.
At present, no one knows exactly what causes regression, but according to developmental-behavioral pediatrician Paul Wang, We understand now that regression is common. It starts early, and it can affect many different developmental skills.
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What Are Some Early Signs Of Autism In Toddlers
When a baby becomes a toddler, various developmental differences, signs and symptoms may become more apparent with the growing age of the child.
During their first year, toddlers with autism spectrum disorder may not:
- like seeing new faces,
- may not be able to walk, or w__alk only on their toes__
- may find certain sounds, tastes and smells upsetting,
- may fall into repetitive movements, like flapping their hands.
These signs may be more noticeable compared to the signs presented early on. However, the majority of children with autism are not diagnosed before the age of two due to missed signs by caregivers, or lack of access to specialists.
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How Is Autism Diagnosed
Doctors check babies and little kids for signs of autism at every checkup. A parent may think that something is wrong and tell the doctor. Maybe the child is old enough to speak but doesn’t. Or a kid doesn’t seem interested in people or plays in unusual ways.
When a doctor thinks a kid might have autism, he or she will work with a team of experts to see if it is autism or something else.
Endogenous Opiate Precursor Theory
In 1979, Jaak Panksepp proposed a connection between autism and opiates, noting that injections of minute quantities of opiates in young laboratory animals induce symptoms similar to those observed among autistic children. The possibility of a relationship between autism and the consumption of gluten and casein was first articulated by Kalle Reichelt in 1991.
Opiate theory hypothesizes that autism is the result of a metabolic disorder in which opioid peptides gliadorphin and casomorphin, produced through metabolism of gluten and casein , pass through an abnormally permeable intestinal wall and then proceed to exert an effect on neurotransmission through binding with opioid receptors. It has been postulated that the resulting excess of opioids affects brain maturation, and causes autistic symptoms, including behavioural difficulties, attention problems, and alterations in communicative capacity and social and cognitive functioning.
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Autism Is A Genetic Disorder
Although autism was once believed to be the result of improper parenting, researchers now believe that genesnot psychological factorsare to blame. In fact, a 2019 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that 80% of autism risk comes from inherited genetic factors. The study was widespread, looking at 2 million people from five countries .
If a couple has one child with autism, there is a 5 to 10 percent chance that siblings will have some sort of autistic disorder. With identical twins, the likelihood is 60 percent. Even though profoundly autistic people rarely have children, researchers often find that a relative has mild autistic symptoms or a high-functioning autism-spectrum disorder.
Experts believe that autism is the result of multiple genes anywhere from three to 20 interacting with each other. This may explain why the symptoms and severity of the disorder vary greatly. These genes may cause a baby’s brain to develop abnormally in utero or make him more susceptible to unknown triggers. “There is probably a combination of genetic and environmental influences,” says Catherine Lord, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Communication Disorders at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Although the genes linked to autism have not yet been pinpointed, intense research is under way.
Prenatal Exposure To Environmental Pollution
Information released by Harvard states that pregnant who are exposed to air pollution in the third trimester are twice as likely to have a child with Autism, as compared to women who were not exposed. The study compared 116,000 pregnancy women from all 50 states. The variables that were compiled included where the women lived during their pregnancy as well as pollution levels in that area as provided by the EPA . Levels of PM2.5 or fine particulate matter were noted in 245 children diagnosed with Autism. The comparisons were made before, during, and after pregnancy. Exposure during pregnancy and especially in the third trimester posed a significantly increased risk with diagnosis. The evidence is quite convincing that maternal exposure to air pollutants is a huge risk factor for offspring Autism. Researchers hope that the information will be useful in considering ways to prevent the disorder.
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What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. NINDS and several other NIH Institutes and Centers support research on autism spectrum disorder.
Nearly 20 years ago the NIH formed the Autism Coordinating Committee to enhance the quality, pace, and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism. The NIH/ACC has been instrumental in promoting research to understand and advance ASD. The NIH/ACC also participates in the broader Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by NIH and other participating organizations.
Maintaining A Nutritious Diet
Pregnant women can lower the risk for autism by eating a colorful, organic diet rich in green vegetables and fruits containing antioxidants. At least 80 grams of protein per day from lean sources like turkey, chicken, and nuts is recommended. Many health experts support reducing white foods, including bread and sugar. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggest soon-to-be mothers take 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid. Increasing intake of Vitamin D has been linked to better neurological development in fetuses. Pregnant women should also drink eight glasses of filtered water, limit mercury levels from fish, and increase omega-3s. A modest weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy is optimal.
How Do You Know If Your Child Has Autism Spectrum Disorder
ASD can be hard to diagnose. Theres no medical test, like a blood test, to check for ASD. No two children with ASD have the exact same signs or symptoms. Providers diagnose ASD by looking at your childs behavior and development.
Children with ASD usually show signs or symptoms when theyre 12 to 24 months old, but some may have them earlier or later. Some children with ASD develop normally until theyre around 18 to 24 months old, but then they stop gaining new skills or lose the skills they once had. This is called regression.
Babies may show signs of ASD before their first birthday if they have severe developmental delays. Developmental delays are when your child doesnt reach developmental milestones when expected. A developmental milestone is a skill or activity that most children can do at a certain age. Milestones include sitting, walking, talking, having social skills and having thinking skills.
Tell your babys health care provider if she isnt meeting her milestones. Its not unusual for a healthy baby to fall behind in some areas or move ahead in others. But babies who dont meet these milestones need their development checked more closely by a provider:
- Babbling by 12 months
- Making gestures by 12 months
- Using single words by 16 months
- Using two-word phrases by 24 months
- Losing language or social skills at any age
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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The Real Reasons Autism Rates Are Up In The Us
A hard look at whether the rise comes from more awareness, better diagnosisor something else
The prevalence of autism in the United States has risen steadily since researchers first began tracking it in 2000. The rise in the rate has sparked fears of an autism epidemic. But experts say the bulk of the increase stems from a growing awareness of autism and changes to the conditions diagnostic criteria.
Heres how researchers track autisms prevalence and explain its apparent rise.
How do clinicians diagnose autism?There is no blood test, brain scan or any other objective test that can diagnose autismalthough researchers are actively trying to develop such tests. Clinicians rely on observations of a persons behavior to diagnose the condition.
In the U.S., the criteria for diagnosing autism are laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The criteria are problems with social communication and interactions, and restricted interests or repetitive behaviors. Both of these core features must be present in early development.
What is the prevalence of autism in the U.S.?The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68children in the U.S. have autism. The prevalence is 1 in 42 for boys and 1 in 189 for girls. These rates yield a gender ratio of about five boys for every girl.
Research Early Signs And Treatment
There’s been widespread controversy about a possible connection between vaccines and the soaring autism rates. Some parents of children whose autistic symptoms first appeared shortly after their measles-mumps-rubella immunization are convinced the shot was the cause, but repeated studies have failed to find scientific evidence. Although one small, heavily publicized British study published in 1998 suggested a link, 10 of the 13 authors publicly retracted the findings in March 2004, saying they were unreliable. The study, lead by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, only studied a small sample of 12 kids, eight of whom were diagnosed with autism. By early 2010, the same British journal, The Lancet, that published his findings retracted his study and in January 2011, the British Medical Journal publicly denounced Dr. Wakefield’s research as “fraudulent.” The British Medical Journalannounced that Dr. Wakefield had “falsified data” and tampered with his research results to give the MMR vaccine bad publicity. At the time of his study, Dr. Wakefield had been involved in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine and would have gained money if he’d won, making his research an obvious conflict of interest.
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What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.
The term spectrum refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified as part of ASD rather than as separate disorders. A diagnosis of ASD includes an assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment.
ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels. However, boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.