Traditionally, autism is not formally diagnosed until the child is older, somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age. However, sometimes we find symptoms and signs that are suggestive of autism earlier in the baby’s life; I’ve always believed it’s important to recognize those signs as early as possible. I do not know if earlier recognition helps to prevent autism, but I do believe in dealing with developmental challenges as soon as you notice them, instead of waiting for a formal diagnosis.
Whenever a parent asks me whether their child may have autism, I first ask about any symptoms that may be suggestive of early manifestations. These typically include developmental delays, speech delays, trouble with social interactions ( not making eye contact or wanting to be held). They may also include extra sensitivities to certain things like sounds or textures or certain repetitive movements, like rocking or headbanging.
Regression of Milestones
The most concerning indication of autism is a loss of developmental milestones. That is, your baby loses speech or some other developmental ability – loss or weakening of an already-achieved ability is suggestive of autism.
Whenever I saw these signs, I would refer these children to specialty therapists:
- Occupational therapy, for texture and other sensitivity issues;
- Speech therapy, for feeding issues and delayed speech; and
- Physical therapy, for motor issues.
We saw improvements with these methods, and it’s clear they help some children, but until now, I haven’t been aware of a study showing that very early intervention has much impact in preventing autistic traits from advancing.It’s not clear whether these interventions helped prevent autism in my patients, but they definitely helped with the challenges the baby was having and improved the families’ lives.
Prevent challenges from advancing, or at Least Optimize Function
The study I’m sharing here (below in Resources) is very encouraging and should give hope to parents who are concerned that their babies are developing autistic traits. It shows, that with proper training, there is, in fact, quite a lot that they can do to positively affect their child’s development and possibly decrease the severity of symptoms in the baby treated.
This report describes how a video feedback program, used in the first year of life, helped decrease the severity of the signs of autism that were emerging in siblings of children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) who are at higher risk of developing ASD.
If you have a child on the autism spectrum, what has been your experience? Please share anything that you feel may help other families.
To your holistic health,