Autism is not usually diagnosed until a child is about three to four years old, but some mothers and fathers start to suspect something is not right long before that. Most parents start worrying about their child’s development by the time they’re a year and a half old, and they may consult with their family doctor or pediatrician by the age of two.
Since children develop at different levels and speeds, most doctors hesitate to make a diagnosis of autism when the child is still quite young, because they fear it could only delay normal development further. The parents may inadvertently hinder normal developmental progress in a child, because they have lower expectations of what the child is able to do and when, or they try to shelter the child more than normal instead.
Research has shown however, that the earlier a diagnosis can be made, the better the chances are of intervening and lessening the problems of the child. With that said, here are some common signs of autism you can look for with young children:
- Response to their name. Most children will start responding to someone calling them by name within a few months of age. Children regularly respond to familiar voices by turning their head in the directio of the voice, and smiling or doing other things to indicate they’ve heard the sound. A sign of autism however, is when a child only responds to their name or familiar voices about twenty percent of the time.
- Are they attentive and observant? By the time a child is about one year old, it’s common for them to participate in things going on around them. They may watch people more, point at things, show you their toys, or look to see something other’s are pointing at.
A lack of this attentiveness and engagement is often another early sign of autism. Autistic children may not often show toys to their parents for instance, and they may not seem to pay much attention to other people talking to trying to engage them in activities. They may also not notice other events happening around them, and they may not respond or when someone points to something of interest.
- Little to no mimicking. Most small children as young as two or three months old will often imitate things they see other people doing. When you wave your hand for instance, or play peek a boo, babies and small children will often do the exact same thing. Children with autism tend imitate the actions they see much less often.
- Limited emotional response. Babies, toddlers and children usually respond well to emotions in other people. They smile and laugh when people around them do the same, and they might even cry if another child crys. Sometimes they’ll show worry or concern if a parent hurts themselves too. An early sign of autism is a lack of emotional response to common triggers and stimulus. They might not notice if someone else crys, smiles or laughs, and they may show no concern if another child or parent is upset.
These are just a few things to look out for. It is important to keep in mind that the age of your child will determine how much of these types of activities they do. Each child develops at different rates than others too, so just because they don’t seem to be doing normal activities yet may not mean they’re showing signs of autism. If you suspect your child may be autistic consult with your health care professional for a proper diagnosis.
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