Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can affect individuals in a varying degree. The disorder is characterized by difficulty with social skills, speech/nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. NJAS identified 1 in 34 eight year olds in New Jersey with ASD in 2014.
The cause for ASD has not yet been identified. However, research has shown links between genetic and environmental factors. Research has also shown that early intervention with ASD is crucial and leads to more positive outcomes later in life.
Because early intervention is so important for later outcomes, it’s important to be aware of the signs of ASD. Early signs of ASD typically develop when children are 2 to 3 years old, but some signs can appear even younger.
Know the Early Signs of ASD:
- Makes poor eye contact
- Does not smile when smiled at
- Does not follow objects visually
- Does not respond to his or her name
- Does not point, wave, or use gestures to communicate
- Does not make noises to get your attention
- Does not initiate or respond to cuddling, prefers to be alone
- Does not ask for help or make basic requests
- Has poor imaginary play
- Makes gestures that include hand flapping, rocking, spinning, lining up of toys
Talk to your child’s caregivers:
Sometimes a perspective from your child’s caregiver can be helpful in seeing if your child is showing early signs of ASD. If your child is enrolled in daycare, talk to his/her teachers about what they’re noticing about your child’s development. The CDC offers a resource which suggests typical milestones based on age. This can be a helpful place to start a conversation with your child’s caregivers to see if your child is meeting typical milestones.
Talk to your pediatrician and/or a developmental specialist:
At your child’s well visits, your pediatrician should be screening your child for signs of autism. If you are seeing any of the early signs of ASD, discuss these concerns with your pediatrician or schedule an appointment with a developmental specialist. A developmental specialist can complete a variety of assessments, including a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation to determine if the symptoms are associated with autism.
Tips For Parents:
- If your child fits the ASD criteria, take advantage of federally funded Early Intervention which include speech therapy, physical therapy, and other relevant services for your child.
- Contact specialists or find research to help give you a better understanding of ASD.
- Find strategies that you can use with your child to help them succeed (create a routine, be consistent, pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities, etc.)
Early detection and early intervention is the key to your child’s best prognosis. For assistance with developmental testing, comprehensive medical assessments, or individual recommendations, please contact the Children’s Wellness Developmental Center.