Autism Awareness Month

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges.

Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in 1 in 150 children in the US, affecting 4 times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

Sypmtoms of Autism by the Mayo Clinic staff

Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development –

Social interaction, language and behavior.

But because autism symptoms vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have different skilss. Some children show signs of autism in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life but then suddenly become withdrawn, become aggressive or lose language skills they’ve already acquired. Though each child with autism is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior, these are some common autism symptoms:

Social Skills

  • Fails to respond to his or her name
  • Has poor eye contact
  • Appears not to hear you at times
  • Resists cuddling and holding
  • Appears unaware of others’ feelings
  • Seems to prefer playing alone – retreats into his or her “own world”

Language

  • Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months
  • Loses previously acquired ability to say word or sentences
  • Doesn’t make eye contact when making requests
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm – may ise a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
  • May repeat words or phrases verbatim. but doesn’t understand how to use them

Behavior

  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
  • Develops specific routines or rituals
  • Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals
  • Moves constantly
  • May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as spinning wheels of a toy car
  • May be unusally sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

Babies develop at their own pace, and many don’t follow exactly timelines found in some parenting books. But children with autism usually show some signs of delayed development by 18 months. If you suspect that your child may have autism, discuss your concerns with your doctor. The earlier the treatment begins, the more effective it will be.

Your doctor may recoomend further developmental tests if your child:

  • Doesn’t babble or coo by 12 months
  • Doesn’t gesture – such as point or wave – by 12 months
  • Doesn’t say a single words by 16 months
  • Doesn’t say two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Loses previously acquires language or social skills at any age

Symptoms of autism are usually noticed first by parents and other caregivers sometime during the child’s first 3 years. Although autism is present at birth (congenital), signs of the disorder can be difficult to identify or diagnose during infancy. Parents often become concerned when their toddler does not like to be held; does not seem interested in playing some certain games, such as peekaboo; and does not begin to talk. Sometimes, a child will start to talk at the same time as othe children the same age, then lose his or her language skills. They also may be confused about their child’s hearing abilities. It often seems that a child with autism does not hear, yet other times, he or she may appear to hear a distnat background noise, such as the whistle of a train.

With early and intensive treatment, most children improve their ability to relate to others, communicate, and help themselves as they grow older.