Autism continues to haunt new and prospective parents as the number of babies born with this disorder continues to rise, particularly among boys. Concern usually begins when babies reach 18 months old with no language development. Early intervention with educational and therapeutic strategies can improve the prognosis for children with autism spectrum disorders, so the American Academy of Pediatrics has identified red flags for these disorders that can be found in babies much younger. Some to look for:
Red flags at 2-6 months:
-Not smiling, or smiling only briefly and without much enthusiasm.
Red flags at 8-10 months:
-No response to his/her name.
-No response to human voices.
“Many parents will think their baby is deaf,” says Chris P. Johnson, M.D., M.Ed., FAAP, clinical professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and co-author of the study on early signs of autism, “but the baby will respond to [environmental] sounds like cellophane crinkling or water dripping.”
Red flags at 10-12 months:
-Not following your hand if you point to something.
-Not pointing to request something. Ordinarily at this age, babies point to request something to eat or a toy.
-Not pointing just for comment. Normally, if a baby sees an object, he points to it, looks back at his parent, then back at the object to share this interesting object. Research continues to reveal clues about the cause of autism. One new study from the Autism Genome Project on 1,168 families with at least two affected members points to genetic variations in the brain’s glutamate neurotransmitter system. Glutamate plays a key role in early brain development.
Early detection can improve an autistic child’s prognosis. Here are autism’s biggest “red flags.”