If you’ve frequented our site in the past, or have worked with us before, you know that we’re advocates of early detection and early intervention. Some parents don’t realize that autism spectrum disorder can be detected as early as nine months to 16 months old – such early detection make a lifetime of difference for kids who do get diagnosed as being on the spectrum.
Infants naturally are motivated to learn from the moment they’re born. Have you ever watched a baby, even just at a glance? They’re looking around, and everything is interesting because everything is new. By the age of four weeks old, they’re already drawn to faces and facial expressions, and most seek interaction.
At nine months, it is a little early to screen for and diagnose autism, but the signs may already be present at this age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that little ones are screened for autism at 19 months and 24 months because by that age, they can be diagnosed, but the truth is that autism isn’t typically diagnosed until the ages of four or five. That’s a lot of opportunity for early intervention missed.
When parents or caregivers can detect some of the symptoms that may be present from nine months and onward, the effects of autism on brain development and social and language and communication skills, not to mention behaviors, can be significantly minimized. Here’s what to look out for.
Does your baby look at you?
Babies like looking at you. They smile when they see you smile. They make eye contact.
A baby with autism spectrum disorder may not like making eye contact, and has no interest in looking at your face.
Does your baby not seem to enjoy you?
Babies like laughing, smiling and engaging with you. By making this social connection of laughter, it’s their way of showing you they’re enjoying you.
However, autistic kids may smile, but it’s not necessarily because they’re enjoying you. Some don’t smile at all, and have very few facial expressions, which makes them hard to “read.”
Does your little one make gestures?
By the time a baby turns a year old, they typically point or gesture toward things that they want or are interested in, and this activity is usually followed up by verbal development.
A sign of autism? They don’t generally point at things they like. They don’t show you things they’re interested in.
Does your baby not seem to make sounds or gestures at the same time?
If you’ve been around babies at all, you may recall that a lot of kiddos between nine to 16 months gesture at things they want and make sounds at the same time – they can’t talk yet, but they’re certainly trying! However, an early sign of autism could be when a baby can’t gesture and make a sound at once to notify you of their interest.
They like objects more than they like people.
Babies usually love people! They usually use objects just to get your attention, but it’s you they really want.
However, when babies seem to like the objects more than the people, that could be a sign of autism. If they have excessive interest in particular objects, or even activities, that could be a sign too – if they seem to like something so much it’s bordering on an intense attachment, that could yet be another symptom.
They’re very sensitive to certain sounds, sights or textures.
If you notice that your baby reacts almost violently to the feel, taste or sound of certain things, that may be a sign. They may resist certain fabrics, or get irritable at certain sounds.
It’s important to remember that your baby may exhibit any one of the above signs – it doesn’t mean they have autism. But if they seem to be fitting in to a few of the above, it might not be a bad idea to call for a diagnostic evaluation.