Most parents of children with autism began to recognize that something was “different” about their child as he/she approached their second birthday. By the time a child is 12 months old, he/she should be babbling (consonant sounds) and cooing (vowel sounds). You should also expect to see him/her gesturing, pointing and waving. By 18 months, a child should be able to say several single words and by 24 months should be using two-word phrases. If you suspect that your child is not developing as he/she should, ask your child’s doctor to perform a developmental screening. Also be aware of any loss of language or social skills at any age, as this should warrant a discussion with your child’s doctor as well.
However, just because you notice one or more of these signs of autism does not necessarily mean that your child has autism. These are just typical benchmarks that most children meet; however, some children (about 15%) will fall outside of these typical ranges.
Most likely, your child’s doctor will suggest further evaluations by a multidisciplinary team that may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language pathologist, education consultant, or other professionals knowledgeable about autism.
Most children with autism are diagnosed by the time they are 6 years old, the national average being around 4 1/2 years old.
If your child seems aggressive or injures him/herself, insists on sameness or is resistance to change, a chat with his/her doctor is warranted. Some other behaviors that should be discussed with the doctor are repeating words or phrases in place or normal language, laughing, crying or showing distress for no apparent reason, preference to being alone, excessive tantrums, spinning objects excessively, little or no eye contact, obsessive attachment to objects and/or not responding to verbal cues or acting deaf.
Again, just because your child exhibits one or a few of these signs of autism does not necessarily mean that he/she has autism. The best course of action is to see a doctor and get a professional opinion. Research has shown again and again that early intervention is the most important factor in treating autism. It is better to over-react than under-react. While ignorance is bliss, the best thing that you can do if you suspect your child has autism is to get him/her diagnosed and get connected with professionals who can help you and your child. Nobody can predict with certainty what your child can or can’t do. He/she has unlimited potential and it is your job as a parent to help him/her reach that potential.
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