Parents often ask me if their child has autism. They are concerned because we've been bombarded with alarming numbers regarding the exponential rise in diagnoses.
Wondering what to look for? Remember that children on the autism spectrum demonstrate problems with communication, relationships, and behaviors. Many children will show one symptom, but not all three.
The Help Group, a consortium of professionals in Southern California, has created a list of typical behavior you should expect at different ages. I'll be tackling them in each of four blog posts.
By four months old, your baby should be showing some signs of socialization. This includes making eye contact, demonstrating a preference for people over objects, and participating in social activities.
Typical babies seek out eyes and gaze into them. If your child does not engage in eye contact when being held or during play, you have reason for concern.
Infants who will later be diagnosed on the autism spectrum tend to prefer looking at objects rather than people. They will spend long periods of time staring at things and appear to be looking past or through people rather than at them. When a preferred toy is held up next to a person's face, the child with autism will look at the object rather than the family member. You should also be concerned if your little one does not respond to social sounds such as talking, singing, humming, or clapping.
Most babies will engage in social responses. If someone smiles at them, they will smile back. They will also participate in "conversations" during which they take turns making noises or imitating adults or older children. The absence of this behavior is also worrisome.
Need more information? You can find The Help Group at http://www.thehelpgroup.org/facts_signs.htm
If you have concerns about any of the behaviors mentioned above, this does not mean your baby has autism. You should voice your worries to your pediatrician and request help with further evaluation.
Next week: Signs of autism in one-year-old toddlers.