Autism is a group of closely related disorders that have similar symptoms. Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by disturbances in communication, social interaction and relating to others. In the past, autism disorders were often not diagnosed until a child was three or four years old. But as more is known about autism, children can be diagnosed at an earlier age, which means treatment can start earlier.
Treatment for autism does not involve a one size fits all approach. Individualized treatment plans need to be developed to meet the specific needs of the child and family. In many instances, the sooner treatment can start, the better the outcome. According to research, intensive early intervention improves social skills, communication and learning in children. Early intervention also provides the needed support for parents and caregivers.
Currently, there is not a definitive medical test that diagnoses autism. Instead, behavior evaluations are administered by psychologists and doctors who are specifically trained in autism disorders. Diagnosing autism early helps children get the services they need to help them achieve their highest level of functioning. Consider some of the following early signs of autism:
1. Not smiling or showing other happy expressions
Did you ever smile at a baby and he gives you a great big toothless grin back? By a certain age, most babies respond to a facial expression or a smile, especially from a parent. Typically, babies start to laugh and squeal by around six months of age. But it is also important to understand, some babies are all smiles while others are a little more subdued. Variations in how much a baby smiles are also normal. In addition, babies start showing joyful expression at different ages. But if your baby is not smiling by about six months of age or laughing in response to your playfulness by a year, it can be an early sign of autism.
2. No eye contact
Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers often involve the absence of normal development, not the presence of abnormal behavior. For example, if your baby does not make eye contact when you are doing things, such as feeding or playing with her, it could be a sign of a problem. In general, babies are interested in faces and will meet a parent or caregiver’s eyes at least some of the time. If your baby or toddler resists eye contact on a regular basis, it can be an early sign of an autism spectrum disorder.