Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affects a child's nervous system and growth and development. It often shows up during a child's first 3 years of life. 1 in 59 U.S. children are diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC. The signs of autism can be quite subtle and may begin to appear as early as six months of age.
Does My Child Have Autism Spectrum Disorder?2019-08-08 The signs of autism in toddlers and young children can be quite subtle, and symptoms may begin to appear as early as six months of age.
Author: Franciscan Focus
If you are concerned that your child might have autism spectrum disorder, what are the signs that you need to look for?
Pediatrician Francine Pearce, MD, who practices at Franciscan Physician Network Family Health Center in Frankfort, Illinois, answers your questions and shares expert insight about autism in children.
Q: What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
A: Autism spectrum disorder is a deficit in social communication, social interaction and repetitive or restricted patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Autism spectrum disorder is typically diagnosed during childhood.
ASD is a spectrum, meaning some children are extremely disabled while others are able to attend school in standard classrooms and even excel in certain areas. However, all those within the spectrum struggle with social interaction and communication.
Q: What Are The Early Signs Of Autism?
A: Autism spectrum disorder can be diagnosed at any age, however, autism is said to be a "developmental disorder" because symptoms generally appear in the first three years of life.
These early symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include:
- Poor eye contact, visual fixations and lack of babbling by 6 months
- No pointing or gestures by 12 months
- No single word spoken by 16 months
- No pretend or symbolic play by 18 months
Almost all children who are ultimately diagnosed with autism show some of these signs by the age of 18 months.
Q: How Is Autism Diagnosed?
A: Pediatricians perform an autism screening at the nine-month wellness visit. This involves asking questions and having a discussion with parents about their child's development.
At the 18-month or two-year exam, pediatricians provide a more in-depth autism screening. Usually this involves parents completing a questionnaire about their child.
Early intervention for autism improves outcomes, so the moment you suspect that your child may be responding differently, see your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may request examinations to rule out hearing and speech issues and check your child's lead level, any of which may cause the differences you are seeing.
If these potential causes are ruled out, the next step is to arrange an appointment for your child with a developmental specialist.
Q: How Is Autism Treated?
A: Each child with autism spectrum disorder needs his or her own special treatment program. This is because children with ASD can vary a lot in how much help they need.
Treatment for autism spectrum disorder includes:
- Behavior change programs. These programs teach social skills, movement skills, and thinking (cognitive) skills. They can help a child change problem behavior.
- Special education programs. These focus on social skills, speech, language, self-care and job skills.
- Medicine. Some children need medicine to help treat some of the symptoms of ASD.
Your child and your family need to see a mental health provider. This provider can give you parent counseling, social skills training and one-on-one therapy. This provider helps you find the treatment programs that are best for your child. Parents in Indiana and Illinois have resources they can access. Your pediatrician can help guide parents toward the correct resources.