First, Autism Spectrum Disorder has got to be a major concern for every new parent. For everyone, in fact – grandparents, neighbors, and schoolmates – all know someone who might be autistic. That sort of takes care of the “Is it really happening more?” question, doesn’t it? The next question, the cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder, can only be answered that it is some combination of environmental factors or triggers and family conditions (genetic influences) that affect the manner in which certain infants and children interact, behave, and develop. That combination either leads to, or is a result of, other chronic or recurring medical problems.
So, when evaluating children under the age of three, socialization is initially expressed with the face and eye contact that results in smiling first, then sounds and finally words, Accompanying that awakening is a widening interest in the baby’s own body and then the outside world and finally interest in other people. Reaching and pointing seem to be indicators of that.
As children mature they have motor milestones that need to be met, and it seems that late crawling or children who “almost walk before they crawl” are at risk of developmental issues. Additionally, there is sometimes a fine line, especially for new parents, about behaviors that seem cute at first, but then get repeated quite frequently (spinning or lining up objects, for example, over and over).
A red flag, for sure, appears when children speak words later than one year.
Old-time pediatricians (I’m one of them) who used to say, “He’s a boy, he’ll grow out of it” have had to change our thinking about that. Such advice is not warranted in the face of this autism epidemic. Even more alarming are the toddlers who lose words or phrases that were previously spoken. My advice, seek help right away!
A combination of these signs plus a medical history that includes prematurity, repeated ear infections, multiple formula and food intolerances, reflux, chronic diarrhea, frequent constipation, severe eczema, or persistent crying ought to alert any parent and professional. This would be a child who needs close observation, a thorough medical and developmental evaluation and appropriate interventions. That could mean language or behavioral therapies as soon as problems present.
Medical issues such as skin, G-IGastro-intestinal (stomach, small intestine; large bowel), repeated ear infections or significant allergic symptoms need to be addressed, also. In our modern, polluted world, a healthy diet can’t but improve any outcome.Just in case there are parents or professionals who may have overreacted to a developmental concern, and the child develops normally, no one will care.
And don’t forget, the chances are 99 in 100 that your child is going to be free of autism. With a parent’s vigilance and appropriate intervention, the other 1% have hope, too. But that’s another blog.