In April, we celebrate World Autism Month, a time to increase our understanding of autism and how to support people with the condition. In turn, we can ensure that children and families affected by autism can achieve the highest quality of life possible.
An early diagnosis of autism is crucial, as it allows you to take advantage of early intervention services in NJ. These services can improve symptoms and improve your child’s outcome. If you do happen to notice any of the six signs listed below, contact your pediatrician for an assessment. These signs do not mean your child has autism, but they can start a healthy conversation.
1. No social smiling by 6 months.
By 6 months, your infant should be smiling at you and others. Impaired affective expression is common in children with autism, which is why a lack of social smiling is something to talk to your child’s doctor about. This could be a marker for autism, especially if autism runs in the family or your baby has limited eye contact.
2. Limited back-and-forth sounds by 9-12 months.
At 9 months, your baby should be giving you some back-and-forth sounds, smiles and other facial expressions. For example, does your child respond to their name? Do they enjoy playing peek-a-boo? Do they wave goodbye when you leave? If your child is not picking up on these traditional forms of interaction, you’ll want to look into them.
3. Very few or no words by 12-16 months.
Babies usually start babbling around 4-6 months. These babbles eventually turn into words like “mama” and “dada.” If your toddler has very few or no words, it’s worth looking into. They don’t have to speak clearly, but there should be some babbling taking place. And, by the time your child is 24 months old, their vocabulary should expand into meaningful two-word phrases.
4. Unusual attachment to a particular object.
Because children with autism often have social impairment, they’re more likely to attach themselves to inanimate objects, particularly hard ones. For example, they may choose a flashlight over a teddy bear. You may also notice that your child does not play with toys in the same manner as their peers.
5. Overreacting to sensory stimuli.
Does your child overreact to various stimuli from the environment? Sensory overload is common among children with autism because they struggle to process everyday sensory information. As a result, they go into overload, causing stress, anxiety and even physical pain.
6. Stimming behaviors.
Stimming refers to repetitive body movements such as pacing, biting nails, hair twirling to tapping. Also called stereotypy, this behavior is believed to cause pleasure by releasing dopamine in the brain. It may also be a response to sensory overload, as stimming takes attention away from the chaos and has a calming effect.
When it comes to a potential autism diagnosis, do not wait. Early intervention services in NJ can make a difference in your child’s outcome and start as early as needed.