Recent statistics from the US show that 1 in every 110 children have autism. That is not a small number! Further, statistic over the past few years show that the number of cases are increasing – the odds are not getting any better. Thus it is important that people know the signs of autism in order to detect autism as soon as possible.
The reason why it is important to detect autism sooner rather than later is the possibility for early intervention, something that studies have shown to substantially improve the social and communicative development of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This is in contrast to the common method of “let’s wait and see” that concerned parents are often faced with when they take their children to a specialist that could easily lead to missed opportunities for early intervention. This is precisely why parents need to be aware of the early signs of autism themselves. Rather than shying away from the possibility, it is much better to take action and get it confirmed or disproved.
Research indicates that children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism although the signs usually become most apparent between the age of 2 and 3. The following list of “red flags” is taken from the Autism Speaks website. They should help parents (and those who work with young children) to identify whether their child is at risk for atypical development and in need for immediate evaluation.
If your child shows any of these signs you should ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter.
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter.
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months.
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months.
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
As a mother of (at least) one autistic child, I want to emphasize the importance of being open to the signs and not taking the easy way out and closing your eyes to them if they are present. Even though it is difficult to face something like the possibility of your child being autistic, you are not doing the child any favor by waiting. Even though your child is showing other signs that you might consider proof that there is nothing unusual going on, you might be wrong.
I learned that the hard way with my JA. As described in my post Autism: What Does It Mean, I was convinced that the doctors were wrong. In my opinion, he had too many qualities that indicated otherwise, like being socially strong, always happy and smiling, and constantly hugging those closest to him. Further, he had none of the signs from the list above as they are strong indicators (but not completely necessary) for autism. Thus, it took a while for me to accept the diagnosis. Today, I have both accepted the fact that JA is autistic and enjoy his amazing lovability and joy on a daily basis, understanding just how lucky we are to have such a happy little boy in our world.
My V has not yet been diagnosed, although he is well under way with the diagnosis process and we are expecting the results soon. He, however, has shown some of the signs mentioned above. Although the first five do not apply to him, the last two do. He is now 32 months old (a little more than 2,5 years) and has only one two-word phrase and maybe 20 spontaneous words in his vocabulary. Further, there was a phase last year where his speech relapsed and he stopped saying things he had been saying for months. He is still not saying some of the words he said before the relapse. Yet, I am thankful for the fact that he does speak at all – although it is not much. And he babbles a lot. That indicates that he is capable of learning. Thus, and due to the fact that he is still so young (and has so many other good qualities), I am hoping that early intervention will help him reach his full potentials.