Thursday, April 5th, 2012
As the estimated rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to increase, early identification, evaluation and intervention are critical for helping youth achieve their best developmental outcomes. Simply put, “wait and see” is too conservative of a strategy for a developmental disorder that is affecting kids at an epidemic rate - and while intervention at any developmental stage will be critical, many kids don’t receive interventions as early as possible because ASD is often diagnosed “later” than it should be. So it’s critical that parents get to know the early signs, especially the early red flags, and if you observe them, make sure you get your pediatrician onboard to seek out a comprehensive developmental evaluation.
To this end, I asked Dr. Ron Steingard of the Child Mind Institute for some guidance on the most important early signs of ASD, given his distinguished record of service as a child psychiatrist and researcher. Dr. Steingard proposed that I share information offered by a terrific website - Helpguide.org - on 7 early signs, or red flags, that should lead parents to seek out an immediate evaluation by a pediatrician and ideally clinicians with expertise in ASD. According to Helpguide.org, these 7 early signs are:
- By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
- By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
- By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
- By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
- By 16 months: No spoken words.
- By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.
Dr. Steingard concurs that any one of these warning signs require attention from a clinician. It is critical to understand that observing these red flags does not mean that a diagnosis of ASD will be made – there can many other clinical issues in play, and in some cases development may in fact just be delayed. The goal here is to be vigilant and pursue clinical evaluation so that a plan can be made to monitor development and, if necessary, initiate the early interventions which can make a huge difference in terms of developmental progress.
If you would like to learn more details about the symptoms of ASD, and other helpful information on other potential early signs of ASD, I suggest the following:
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