Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that affect the way the brain processes social information. Since autism is a “spectrum” disorder, symptoms can range from mild to severe, and no two cases of ASD are exactly alike.
Signs and Symptoms
Most children with ASDs tend to be disinterested in social interaction and more focused on inanimate objects. Infants with an ASD may:
- Avoid eye contact or seldom smile back
- Develop speech and language skills later than normal or not at all
- Often will not respond to their name by 12 months
- Do not point at or show interest in unusual objects (such as airplanes in the sky) by 14 months
- Will seldom engage in pretend activities (such as “feeding” a doll) by 18 months
- Show obsessive interest in one toy or one part of a toy
When to Start Looking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some children with ASDs show signs of the disorder within the first few months of life. Some children with ASDs will seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months, when they stop developing new skills or lose skills they already learned. Up to half of parents of children with an ASD notice symptoms before their child’s first birthday, and as many as 90 percent notice symptoms by age 2.
It’s never too early to begin looking for symptoms of an ASD. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends physicians begin screening babies for autism during their well-child visits and be able to diagnose autism by 18 months of age. If you’re concerned your baby may be showing signs of an ASD, speak with your primary care provider and ask about available tests to screen for ASDs.
To learn more about autism spectrum disorders, click here.
Reviewed by Jerry Fletcher, M.D., pediatric psychiatry, Meridian Youth Psychiatric Center, P.C.