Early Signs of Autism

Even though autism can be difficult to diagnose, there are several early signs of autism that all new parents should be aware of. Autism has no known cause and no known cure, but there are some effective treatments that work especially well when autism is discovered early on in a child's life.

Within the first months of a baby's life, there are developmental milestones that every healthy baby should reach by a certain age. Parents and care givers should watch for these behavioral events and let their doctor know if an infant seems to have a problem in one or more areas of development.

The most common early signs of autism happen within the first 3-18 months, and they are not so much particular behaviors as the absence of certain behaviors. If a baby does not reach their developmental milestones when expected, autism may be the problem. Below are five simple tests a parent or caregiver can use to check for any early signs of autism:

1 - The baby should respond when their name is called by the time they are three months old. Autistic children respond to their name about 20% of the time, and they also have limited responses to sudden noises and loud sounds.

2 - Most babies engage in some type of imitating very early on, in fact this is often one of the first stages of development in infants. For example, when you smile at a baby, they will usually smile back. A child with autism doesn't exhibit this copying behavior on schedule, and they may not play this way very often.

3 - Most babies respond emotionally to their parents and caregivers. This is how they have their needs met; by crying, laughing and responding to others. Autistic kids can be fairly unresponsive, not smiling before turning six months old or avoiding eye contact. An autistic child may also seem to ignore emotions or distress displayed by others.

4 - A baby should be talking baby talk, gesturing and pointing by the age of 12 months, and speaking with simple words by 18 months. It is not uncommon for an autistic child to be delayed in speech development and also in the area of communication. One of the major symptoms of autism is failure to communicate effectively, so an inability to reach the milestones for speech can be one of the early signs of autism.

5 - Another possible sign of autism is if a child exhibits a certain behavior for awhile and then completely loses it. For example, if a one-year old child uses the words Mommy and Daddy to get a parent's attention, they are developing on schedule. If they suddenly stop using these words and don't replace them with something else, autism could be the cause.

While missing milestones can be one of the early signs of autism in children, there are many other reasons why a child might not do a certain thing by a specific time. Each child develops differently, the important thing is good loving care no matter what their developmental stage.

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