Chris Manente – Does My Baby Have Autism?
Autism is a developmental disability that will have life-long impacts on people who have it and on their families and caregivers. There is some controversy about what causes autism, and experts like Chris Manente continue to investigate causes and potential treatments.
Most people have a basic understanding of what might be considered “autistic behavior,” which includes characteristically “anti-social” tendencies, repetitive body movements or language patterns, and difficulty dealing with change or new situations. However, it is important to understand that autism is not a single disorder but is rather a cluster of related disorders that are collectively referred to as the “autism spectrum.” This means that some people will demonstrate extreme deficits whereas in other people the characteristic features of autism may be very subtle.
Because it is vitally important to support people with autism from as young an age as possible, early diagnosis is the key, and when autism is identified in babies treatment can be very effective. While older children can be relatively easily identified because they begin to exhibit clear patterns of active behaviors, with babies the issue is different. For babies, the hallmarks of autism manifest in things that they are not doing which would otherwise be expected according to the baby’s age. In other words, parents need to be on the lookout for the absence of normal behaviors rather than the presence of abnormal behaviors. This can be tricky because babies do not always hit standard developmental markers exactly “on-time” and so parents might not appreciate that their baby’s development is lagging. Paying close attention to a pattern of delay is for that reason critical to the earliest possible detection.
Missing developmental milestones
If your baby misses important developmental markers, you should have your child seen by a medical professional. Missing a milestone may have nothing to do with an autism diagnosis and could be caused by hearing difficulties, anatomical issues or vision problems.
By 6 months your baby should be smiling, and should be responding to his or her name by 12 months. Also at 12 months, your baby should be engaging in babbling and gestures like reaching, waving and pointing. By 16 months, your baby should be using single words to express wants or observations, and by 24 months should be using 2 words together.
In addition to missing developmental milestones, there are other indications that your baby may be on the autism spectrum. These are less measureable, but should be apparent to parents or other people who regularly care for a baby. These signs include a sense that your baby avoids eye contact or doesn’t imitate your facial expressions even as an infant. If your baby seems to be bothered by touch or cuddles and doesn’t reach out to be picked up these are things that should be discussed with your child’s doctor.
If you suspect that your baby may be on the autism spectrum, the most important thing to do is to trust your instincts and have you baby evaluated as early as possible. The earlier you are able to intervene and being treatment, the better the chance at minimizing the effects of autism.