Early signs of autism

When a newborn joins a family we become beguiled by the perfection of this wondrous new being. Any hint of difference is easily overlooked during the early years.

We now understand that the onset of symptoms of autism spectrum disorders is variable during the first two years of life. Signs are evident in some children from birth, while others may appear to be developing typically but then fail to progress.

Other children may lose some of their already-developed skills. Words the child may have previously (and correctly) used to name or request objects, for instance, may no longer be uttered. This apparent slowing or regression in development usually becomes apparent between 15 to 24 months of age, but may begin even later.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a complex set of conditions that affect more than 1% of children. They are characterised by difficulties in the core areas of social communication and language, accompanied by restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests.

Although largely genetically determined, we still do not understand all of the causes of ASDs.

There are currently no available cures. So the best evidence to date points to early identification and behavioural intervention as the best way to minimise the effects of these conditions on the developing child.

If behavioural intervention can be accessed as soon as there are early warning signs – before the onset of the “full-blown” syndrome – it’s possible to target the developmental precursors of ASDs. This improves the chances of the child moving toward a more typical developmental trajectory.

A baby who doesn’t respond when his name is called, or shows no signs of imitating others’ behaviours such as clapping and waving, and instead seems to be on their own agenda, is a candidate for early intervention. This child needs to be brought back into the social loop so that he can begin to learn from others. Continue reading


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