April is World Autism Month and an important time to better understand a condition that affects about one in every 59 children. Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is complex and includes developmental screenings and a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. While those with autism experience it differently, there are signs and red flags. Recognizing and diagnosing autism early can make a difference in outcomes for those with autism.
Cathy Cantor, MD, a pediatrician and internist with ProMedica Physicians and a mother of a son with autism, said that before her son’s diagnosis, she experienced anxiety. “Even though I’m a doctor, his symptoms weren’t what you read about in a textbook. So that gave me doubt, which fed into my motherhood anxiety of not wanting to believe,” she explained.
Now, after seeing her son’s Zachary’s growth since his diagnosis and ongling treatment, she encourages other parents to seek help if they think their child may have autism. “Don’t fear the diagnosis,” she recommends, “We need to fear the years passing by of not getting them early intervention.”
Recognizing the signs
Here are some common signs that may suggest your child is at risk for autism.
- Stiff arms or legs
- Body arching
- Extreme irritability
- Persistent choking or gagging
- Use of only one side of the body
- A floppy or limp body
- Difficulty focusing eyes
- Difficulty responding to sounds
- Difficulty cooing or babbling
- Not smiling or responding to you
- Is not startled by loud sounds by 3 months
- Is not soothed by Mom’s voice by 3 months
- Is not babbling, responding to own name by 10 months
- Does not understand common words such as “no” or “bye-bye” by 10 months
- Is not able to imitate simple words/sounds by 15 months
- Is not able to locate objects when asked by 15 months
- Is not able to follow simple spoken directions or not have 8 – 10 true words by 18 months
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or facial expressions by 9 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, waving, by 12 months
- No babbling 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 social skills at ANY age
If you have concerns, don’t “wait and see.” Talk to your child’s pediatrician about their development.
The Finnegan Family Autism Center at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital offers intensive Applied Behavioral Analysis intervention for children with autism.