Is it possible to identify autism in babies?
With the word autism becoming mainstream and the disability gaining more and more attention, perhaps you’ve wondered how early you can detect if your child has autism.
While most pediatricians screen for autism traits at a child’s 18-month checkup, there are some things to keep an eye on if you think your child may be at risk for autism.
How to Identify Autism in Babies
What is Autism
Autism Speaks defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as, “A range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.”
Simply put, a child with autism may have trouble during social interactions with peers and adults, compulsively repeating behaviors, or gaining and using language effectively. They can also have unique strengths, such as intellectual abilities well-beyond their age.
Diagnosing autism is tricky though. There is no blood test or medical screening currently available. It’s also not a black and white diagnosis (such as a child who is unable to hear being diagnosed with deafness). Determining if your child has autism necessitates a complete overview of his behaviors, abilities, and needs.
Furthermore, Autism Spectrum Disorder is just that, a spectrum. Some children diagnosed with autism may be nonverbal and constantly struggling with repetitive behaviors. Whereas others may be fully verbal, socially awkward, yet highly intelligent.
No two children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are the same.
With such variations on the same spectrum it can be difficult to find common traits. Luckily, as increasing research becomes available about Autism Spectrum Disorder, some have emerged.
How Can I Tell if My Baby Has Autism
There’s no cookie-cutter way to determine if your baby has autism, although researchers accurately predicted autism in babies in a recent study.
While some children may develop normally and then begin regressing around their second birthday, others later diagnosed with autism showed signs throughout their first year. Professionals have begun looking at these markers for autism as a unofficial screening for babies.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Questions to Ask
If your child is over six months and you suspect he may have Autism Spectrum Disorder, ask yourself the following questions (adapted from Autism Speaks):
1. Does my six month old smile at people?
2. Does my six month old make eye contact with me or others?
3. Does my nine month old vocalize sounds, smile, or other forms of nonverbal communication?
4. Does my twelve month old babble?
5. Does my twelve month old communicate with gestures such as waving, signing, pointing or reaching?
6. Does my twelve month old respond to his name when called?
If you answered yes to each question, your child’s social and verbal development is on-track for her age. If you answered no to any of the above questions, take a look at where to go from here.
Next Steps: Where to Go From Here
While no questionnaire gives a definitive answer regarding autism in babies, knowledge is power. If you answered no to any of the above questions, those are areas to take note of.
Write down the skill you were looking for and spend consistent time - over multiple days - with your baby. Play with him, sing with him, and see if the missing skill was just being overlooked. If you continue to see a deficit in any area write down your observations and plan to chat with your pediatrician at your next appointment.
A simple questionnaire never constitutes a diagnosis or replaces a discussion with your pediatrician.
Learn what you can about autism, note your concerns about your baby’s development, and be ready to make a plan with your pediatrician about future screenings. Love your little one and enjoy the baby years; they disappear in the blink of an eye.
Are you concerned your baby might have autism? Check out Autism Speaks to learn the signs as well as how to screen for autism.
Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.