It has always been most parents’ fervent wish that their little bundle of joy has no abnormality, physical defect, and mental problems. Worse, never do they wish that their precious one has autism. Catching it early though may make a huge difference, helping the child deal with the disorder and possibly lessen its effects.
What is autism?
Autism causes delays in many basic areas of development like talking, interacting, and even playing. Its symptoms and effects vary widely, however every child on the autism spectrum has problems, at least to some degree, in the following areas:
- Communicating verbally and non-verbally
- Interacting with others and the world around them
- Thinking and behaving flexibly
Experts, doctors, and parents have different opinions about autism and its causes. But everyone comes on the same page that early detection may make a great impact and difference. The parents, as most would agree, are in the best position to spot early warning signs of autism. For one, they know their child better than anyone else. It would help if they are educated about the different developmental milestones of a child and what is deemed normal or otherwise. They may always share their concern with their trusted Pediatrician who can give valuable opinion and observation as well.
Signs of autism in babies
Symptoms of autism often surface at age one to 1 1/2 years old. Through some intensive treatment, specialists may rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.
Early signs of autism involve
- Not following objects visually
- Not making an eye contact
- Not making noise to get attention
- Not much of a facial expression
- Not responding to his name
- Not responding to familiar voices
- Not using gestures to communicate
Simply put, a baby with autism generally remains quiet and unresponsive for a long duration. One can catch its early warning signs if he knows what to look for.
There are also developmental delays that may serve as cue such as:
- No joyful expression by the time the baby reaches six months
- No facial expression and even sharing of sounds by nine months
- No response to name and no baby talk by 12 months
- Still no spoken words by 16 months
- Remains still most of the time, not even imitating elders or others by 24 months.
- Beyond toddler phase, the child appears disinterested of his surroundings. He also has difficulty expressing himself plus obvious delay in speech
Signs of autism in children
- The child prefers to live in his own world, too detached from others
- He has his own ways to move or walk. For instance, he prefers to skip lines or walk in tiptoe
- He finds it hard to communicate and even avoid eye contact
- Has unusual attachment to certain things or toys like light switches and rubber bands
- He obsessively lines up toys or arranges them in certain orders
- May spend long periods just looking at moving objects like a carousel and electric fan
- May watch the same movie repeatedly without complaint and may even repeat or memorize dialogues
- Shows obsession in his interests and activities
- He cannot understand simple directions
- He refers to himself in the third person
- He repeats words or phrases as a way to respond to questions or to make a point
- Others would look at them as too cold or “robot like.”
- Some children show sensitivity to loud noises while others remain unresponsive to people around
Causes of autism
Most studies point that autism is caused mostly by genetic factors. Recent studies, though, show that a baby may be born with a genetic vulnerability to autism and all the more triggered by environmental factors. It may happen while he is still in the womb or after his birth.
There are prenatal factors that lead to autism such as:
- Taking antidepressants while pregnant, especially during the first trimester
- Taking medication for infection like UTI, especially in the first 3 months
- Exposure to chemical pollutants while pregnant
- Lack of certain nutrients especially folic acid during pregnancy
- Complications at birth like low birth weight and neonatal anemia
Reduce the risk of autism
As autism may be triggered by environmental factors which may happen why the baby is still in the womb, it is prudent then for expectant moms to:
- Take a multivitamin. Folic acid, in particular, is needed to help prevent birth defects
- Eat nutritious and clean food to avoid infection
- Regular check up with the OB-Gyn or doctor to see the progress of baby inside the womb
Steps to do when with autism
Autism can be diagnosed as early as age two. A parent, though, may notice early signs of abnormality before the child’s first birthday.
To check the likelihood of autism, have an autism screening. This consists of yes and no questions about the symptoms present in a child. The next step is to see a developmental specialist. He will do a series of test and screening to make a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. Most of these test are like games a usual child does like playing building blocks, determining colors, and the like. The developmental specialist will also be your partner on how to seek early intervention services and other treatment.
You are a parent. More than anyone else, you are in the better position to evaluate your child’s progress. As autism involves a variety of developmental delays, you as a parent may keep a close eye on your kid. Check and evaluate if he is hitting the key social, cognitive, and emotional milestones of a child.
Best of all, listen and trust your gut feeling. Parents have that ability to know things without calculated reasoning. If you suspect anything uncomfortable, do not resort to the wait and see approach. Again, catching it early may make a huge difference.
* Information here is based on the writer’s personal take on autism, advice from her Pediatrician, and view of her Developmental Specialist. Her Firstborn underwent an autism spectrum diagnosis. He was cleared though of any disorder.