While autism generally is not diagnosed in children until the age of three or so, it is possible to spot the warning signs and begin taking preventative measures as early as around six months. With autism, early intervention is crucial, but you can't begin the process until you know your child is at risk. Here are four major warning signs to watch out for.
1. Limited Attempts at Interaction
Whether a baby is friendly or shy, all babies should show emotion when they see their favorite caregiver. If your baby does not smile in response to seeing you, does not imitate or seem interested in your facial expressions, does not make eye contact or shows no interest in others, it may be an early sign of autism.
2. Limited Desire to Communicate
Even babies who cannot yet talk generally find ways to communicate with their caregivers, whether that is through crying, gesturing, pulling or babbling. If your baby shows little interest in communicating with you, however, it may be a sign of autism. Warning signs include: lack of gesturing to communicate, delayed speech and a failure to respond to one's own name.
3. Limited Social Skills
While toddlers may be too busy to interact with others for very long, most babies thrive on and need social interaction with friends and family. If your child seems uninterested in cuddling, rarely makes bids for your attention and does not reach to be picked up, autism may be the cause.
4. Delayed Motor Development
While autism occurs mostly in an individual's thoughts and behavior, it can affect a child physically as well. Children with autism may play with toys in unusual ways or experience slowed or even regressing motor development.
All children learn and grow at their own pace, so a few of these signs alone may not be cause for concern. If your child is significantly behind or if they are behind in several areas, however, you may want to speak to your child's pediatrician. A "wait and see" approach is rarely the best option. The sooner you can get your child the help they need, the better off they will be.