Autism in Infants
Autism is surrounded by unknowns, so diagnosing autism in infants can be very difficult because the symptoms are so subtle, especially until the child is about 18 months old. Autism is most frequently diagnosed before a child turns 3 years old, and it has been reported that 7 out of every 10,000 children, will be diagnosed with autism before they reach the age of 3.
The first few years of a baby's life are full of development and growth, so sometimes the mild behavioral differences associated with autism can go unnoticed. There is no single diagnostic factor that points to cases of autism in infants. At the same time, however, even solitary symptoms should never be overlooked.
Adding to the diagnostic difficulties is the fact that the degree of autism in infants can vary greatly. One major behavioral situation that could be indicative of autism is if an activity or speech disappears from the child's behavior. For example, if a child that has been saying Mommy or Daddy suddenly stops without replacing those words with something else, the child's brain may be losing function for memory or communication, and autism could be the cause.
Another developmental concern that could point to autism in infants is the inability of the child to form simple two-word sentences by the time they are two years old. This is an important milestone in an infant's development, but failing to meet it is not always an indication of autism. There are other disabilities that could cause an infant to develop speech more slowly, but this is one of the subtle symptoms to be aware of if it is suspected that a child might be autistic.
Another speech-related developmental milestone that is sometimes missed by autistic infants is the ability to speak, or even babble, before turning one year old. As with other milestones, however, just because a child isn't talking baby talk by age one doesn't mean they are autistic. There are a number of developmental disabilities that exhibit the same subtle symptoms as autism in infants. The important thing is to observe the child's behavior and talk to a doctor about anything out of the ordinary.
Autism in infants can also be observed in how the baby expresses emotion. An autistic child will not show emotion or respond to touch in the same way most babies do. Babies with autism usually do not make eye contact either. One way to test a child's emotional responses is to observe how they react to loud noises or sudden movement, like waving a hand in front of them.
While there is no cure for autism, early detection of autism in infants can make a big difference in the treatment and development of the child. If there is even the slightest suspicion that a baby is autistic, it should be brought to their doctor's attention right away. Remember that some doctor's are not familiar with autism, its symptoms, or the required treatment. Trust those parental instincts, and continue seeking medical attention until a cause for any unusual behaviors can be determined.