When it comes to autism, we’ve all been rocked by the recent CDC data that found ongoing increases in the number of children diagnosed with autism annually; it’s estimated that 1 in 88 children has autism in the US. The rates are unfortunately higher for boys. The number is unsettling to say the least, particularly as the cause of autism is multifactorial and not entirely understood. Although we know genetics and family history plays a role, we don’t know what causes the majority of autism.
Read more about the science of autism from Autism Science Foundation.
We do know one thing: research proves the earlier you intervene to get a child additional services, the better their behavior, the better their outcome, and the better their chances for improved communication. You don’t need a diagnosis to access services for your child.
When you worry and can’t find resources online that reassure you, it’s time to check with your child’s clinician. That’s the point of a real partnership and a true pediatric home. Fight to find one if you don’t already have one. Fight to improve yours if it’s imperfect. The feedback I receive from families in my clinic allows me more leverage to make change. We’re all responsible for improved health communication…
Signs of Autism In Infants & Toddlers:
There is not one specific behavior, test, or milestone that diagnoses autism. More than any one behavior,
- You should observe your infant demonstrating curiosity.
- You should observe your baby expressing joy nearly every day after 4 months of age. Your child should smile when they are 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old and thereafter.
- Your child should show you they know their name by 1 year of age.
- You should see that your child tries to communicate thoughts more effectively with each month that unfolds during infancy and toddlerhood.
Here’s a list of specific Autism Warning Signs.
If you’re concerned your child isn’t meeting development milestones you expect or read about, trust your instinct. If your child is losing milestones, see the pediatrician immediately. You don’t need a diagnosis to access services for your child. If you have any concerns about development, I would also recommend you talk with your child’s clinician to have their vision and hearing formally screened.
The Autism Blog here at Seattle Children’s is written by specialists in the field of development and communication. Here’s more from them:
- Sensitivity & Terms We Use to Describe Autism Great blog post from a provider and parent of a child with autism.
- Why The Sharp Rise in Autism? The blog post examines classification changes for autism, mis-classification, and possible reasons for rising numbers.
- Autism Rate Change to 1 in 88 [VIDEO]
- DSM-5 And Autism Part I and Part II The blog posts discuss recent changes to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual that define what constitutes a diagnosis of autism. Read this CNN piece as well.
Thank you for those 4 general observations! My 11 month old is still not much of a babbler, much less talker. He has a weird (but cute) asymmetrical crawl that got me a bit nervous since every link that came up for “asymmetrical crawl” on google was for early signs of autism, and went on to precisely describe my son’s weird crawl. But he does all 4 of the social things you’re describing, with enthusiasm.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Wonderful, Meagan. Talk with your son’s pediatrician at the 1 year check-up about your concerns. Particularly if any asymmetry in any other behaviors or tasks. If he shows any weakness in either side of his body doing anything else, I would talk with your pediatrician sooner rather than later. Wonderful to hear he has such fantastic social skills!
Nancy Holtzman RN IBCLC CPN says
As someone who works daily with babies in that age-group, I see many (many!) interesting variations of “crawl”, ranging from the butt-shuffle, crab-scuttle, bear-crawl, persistent commando crawl (oof! looks like so much effort) and babies who roll and flip themselves around the room. “Classic” crawl is not a given in mobile babies.
I’m usually less concerned with HOW a baby moves, and more focused on making sure that babies have the cognitive interest, physical strength/ability/muscle tone, and daily opportunities to practice moving from one place to another.
Vera McKay says
My daughter is now 13 & was diagnose at 2 being developmental delay. Over the years she has show some signs of Autism, such as she repeated some phrases, with her hands at the side she moves her wrist around not all the time but sometimes when we are waiting in line or around a lot of people, she walks with a bounce sometimes there are many other things but we were told by many that it’s part of being intellectual disability. Recently in the past 1-2 yr some since starting middle school she showing more signs,but we are not sure.
Question: Can a child show some signs that are similar to autism and later be diagnose as autism or do they have to be diagnose by age 3? Also can a genetic blood test shed light on this?
When my son was a baby he was on his own track. he reached all his milestones just really late. I always knew there was something up but he has always been happy, loving, engaging,etc.. At 2 he had 2 words so I decided to get him evaled for OT and speech. His doc referred us to Children’s which had a 9 month waiting list. There was no way I was going to wait 9 months and watch him get further and further behind. I got him into a private clinic the next day. Two months later we got an official diagnosis from the UW Autism Center. He started ABA,and PT along with the speech and OT he was already doing. We got his eyes checked and the poor kid was really farsighted. We got tubes in his ears because he kept having ear infections. poor kid couldn’t see or hear. From that day on he has gotten better and better. A year and half later he is learning so fast his therapists can’t keep up with him. He just started a neuro-typical preschool he is just over three years old and is taking the summer off of PT, OT, and Speech. He is an incredible little boy. Long story short. If you have any concern about any delay at all get help immediately don’t assume a child will outgrow a delay and catch up. Early intervention matters and it matters big time. It has changed the life of our son.
Craig Canapari MD says
Invaluable advice here. It is so hard for parents to know what is abnormal, and what is just a normal variant. This is really great concrete info.