Multiple causes have been found that lead to autism with significant variability among affected individuals, and there are many signs parents can watch out for, including early indications such as:
- Failure to babble by 12 months
- Inability to gesture (point or wave) by 12 months
- Inability to say single words by 16 months or two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months
- Loss of any language or social skills at any age
As the child progresses into his or her toddler years, he or she may display other symptoms, including:
- Being overly sensitive to sight, touch, hearing, smell or taste
- Curious attachment to objects
- Difficulty participating in pretend play
- Displaying unusual distress when routines change
- Performing repeated body movements
- Social interaction challenges
- Struggles with verbal and nonverbal communication
What Tests Are Available?
Your child may undergo several evaluations to diagnose autism, such as a hearing test, a blood lead test, a medical genetics evaluation and a screening test for autism. The diagnostic process often includes a complete physical and neurological examination as well, and children with known or suspected symptoms may undergo genetic and metabolic testing. Because autism encompasses a broad array of symptoms, one single evaluation cannot accurately predict a child’s true aptitudes. Therefore, a team of providers from a variety of specialties may be involved in your child’s testing and evaluation.
Help Is Here
Just as autism can cause a variety of symptoms, it takes a variety of treatment methods to help control them. No single pill can cure the condition, but a variety of methods can greatly improve your child’s life, including:
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech-language therapy
- Support groups
- Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)
If you suspect your child may have autism, speak with his or her primary care provider immediately, as early intervention is key.
For more information about services at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent, search “autism” in the “I’m looking for…” section at peytonmanning.stvincent.org.
Reviewed by Luis Escobar, M.D., pediatric genetics and neurodevelopment, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.