Early Warning Signs of Autism

child wearing red glasses

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest reports for the incidence of autism in children are 1 out of every 150. Autism is a severe developmental disorder. Most autistic children look ‘normal’ in appearance, but they exhibit behaviors that are puzzling in comparison to other children of the same age range. Autism also seems to affect the child’s ability to communicate and socialize.

The latest research indicates that the best outcomes are with children who received early intervention. Currently, the trend in many mainstream medical practices is making a diagnosis of autism at around the age of three. Autism is difficult to diagnose early because there is no magic test. Some autistic behaviors are also behaviors/symptoms of other disorders that need to be ruled out.

The National Institute of Child Health and Development has five behaviors that warrant further evaluation. This should be included in your well child visit. These five behaviors include: Not babbling or cooing by 12 months, no gestures (pointing, waving, grasping) by 12 months, does not say a single word by 16 months, does not say two-word phrases by 24 months, any loss of language or social skill at any age. It’s important to remember that if your child exhibits any or all of these signs, it does not mean they have autism. It just means further evaluation may be needed to rule out any delays.

little girl with autism

Early Indications of Autism (A Few Examples)

  • Language and speech delays

  • The child can not explain what he/she wants

  • Walking on his/her toes

  • Spends a lot of time lining up things or putting things in a certain order

  • Is not interested in other children

  • Appears deaf or tunes people out

  • Displays odd movement patterns

  • Doesn’t smile when smiled at

  • Poor eye contact or refuses eye contact

  • Loss of any developed skill or language

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, the child’s primary health care provider is required to refer a family to an early intervention service. This also entitles all children three years and older, by law, to free and appropriate public education.

child playing with toys

The website Parent Center Hub lists resources for disability-related services. If you feel that your child is exhibiting autistic symptoms or any other developmental delay, and your child’s doctor disagrees, you can utilize that website to find services and support in your area.

As much as we currently know about autism, there are still many, many questions left unanswered. It is not exactly known what causes autism, why it is more prevalent in boys, or how to cure it. What we do know is that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.

Although you may not have as much medical training as your child’s doctor, you know your child and see them develop every day. Even though you can’t diagnose problems, when you feel ‘something isn’t right,' it’s better to be proactive and go with your instincts. Help and support is available. If you suspect your child may have a delay, get them evaluated. With help, many autistic children go on to lead satisfying lives. Special programs are designed to help these children and their families understand and cope with the disorder.

© Rebecca Pillar 2007