Identification of Childhood Autism

Research has revealed that the earlier a child with autism begins treatment, the more effective that treatment is. Children who get at least two years of intensive intervention in the preschool years are often able to go to a mainstream school and attend regular classes. The Center for Disease Control in concert with the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities have recently launched a campaign called “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” which focuses on helping parents to see the signs of common conditions for which early treatment can make all the difference. Autism and the Autism Spectrum Disorders are one of the conditions that is most responsive to early intervention and treatment.

Recognizing the signs of autism can help you alert your doctor that there is a difference about your child. One of the most pertinent signs of autism is the failure to reach certain developmental milestones or the loss of skills once those milestones have been reached. You should talk to your doctor or health practitioner if:

In the first six months your child does not:

    • Respond to loud noises
    • Notice his hands
    • Follow moving objects with his eyes (tracking)
    • Smile at people by 3 months
    • Babble by 3-4 months
    • Reach for and try to grasp toys by 4 months
    • Try to imitate sounds that you make by 4 months
    • Pay attention to new faces or surroundings OR if he seems very frightened by new faces or surroundings

At around seven months, your child:

    • Refuses to cuddle or seems distressed when being cuddled
    • Shows no affection for the person who cares for him
    • Doesnt seem to enjoy being around people
    • Doesnt respond to sounds around him or her
    • Doesnt turn his head to locate sounds by 4 months
    • Doesnt smile on his own by 5 months
    • Doesnt laugh or make happy sounds by 6 months
    • Doesnt follow objects with his eyes by 7 months
    • Doesnt actively reach for objects by 7 months
    • Doesnt try to attract attention by 7 months
    • Doesnt babble by 8 months
    • Isnt interested in playing peek-a-boo by 8 months

At about a year, your child:

    • Isnt using single words like mama, dada or baba (for bottle)
    • Doesnt point to objects or pictures that interest him
    • Doesnt learn to use gestures like pointing or waving bye-bye

At two years, your child:

    • Doesnt have a vocabulary of at least 15 words
    • Doesnt use two-word sentences like ‘go bye-bye or ‘drink juice
    • Doesnt imitate actions or words
    • Doesnt seem to know what common objects like the telephone, a brush or spoon are for
    • Doesnt follow simple, one-step instructions by 2 (i.e. Get the book or Sit here)

At three years, your child:

    • Doesnt use short phrases to communicate
    • Doesnt play ‘pretend cuddling dolls, or pretending to drive a car, for instance
    • Shows little or no interest in other children
    • Doesnt make eye contact well
    • Shows very little interest in toys
    • Has extreme difficulty separating from primary caregiver

At four years, your child:

    • Isnt interested in games with others
    • Ignores other children
    • Doesnt play make-believe games
    • Has uncontrolled temper tantrums when angry or upset
    • Doesnt use sentences of more than three words
    • Doesnt use pronouns like you and me properly

At five years, your child:

    • Doesnt seem interested in playing with other children
    • Doesnt respond to people, or seems to barely acknowledge them
    • Doesnt often play make-believe or use fantasy in play
    • Doesnt seem to express many emotions
    • Seems very passive
    • Only is interested in one or two activities
    • Seems to avoid other children and adults

In addition, if at ANY age, your child seems to lthat he or she had been using, you should alert your doctor. While temporary regression is often a sign that a child is preparing for a major milestone jump, the loss of skills is also a symptom of at least two disorders in the autism spectrum.