All About Autism
All About Autism
According to Autism Speaks, Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. The Centers for Disease Control reported that autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.
Of note, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
What are the signs of autism?
The autism diagnosis age and intensity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, behaviors become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.
Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.
The following may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, you can ask your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:
By 6 months
- Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
- Limited or no eye contact
By 9 months
- Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
By 12 months
- Little or no babbling
- Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
- Little or no response to name
By 16 months
- Very few or no words
By 24 months
- Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)
At any age
- Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Persistent preference for solitude
- Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
- Delayed language development
- Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
- Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Restricted interests
- Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
- Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
If you have concerns, an autism screener or evaluation by a licensed professional is likely warranted. For a screening instrument for toddlers ages 16 – 30 months old, go here.
The M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers ™) can help you determine if a licensed professional should evaluate your child. This simple online autism screen, available on our website, takes only a few minutes.
Signs of autism in adults and teens
Do you suspect that your feelings and behaviors involve autism? Many people who have milder forms of autism go undiagnosed until adulthood. Find out more in the guide: “Is it Autism and If So, What Next?”
You can read more about me, Dr. Brett Andersen on Autism Speaks’ website here.