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Diagnosing Autism

Parents have recently been asking me questions about a serious topic recognizing the early signs of autism. Let me see if I can provide some answers. Autism is diagnosed when a childs brain develops a different wiring system, resulting in the child having more difficulty making sense of the world in which he or she lives. This results in the child having trouble doing everyday things like communicating and interacting with others. Autism affects between 1 in 150 and 1 in 500 children, depending on what study you read, and its symptoms can run the spectrum, from very mild to severe. Two people with autism may not act alike or have the same level of functioning. We dont really know what causes autism, and there is no definitive lab or imaging test that can diagnose autism. Only direct observation of a childs behavior will identify this disorder. Therefore, the important thing is to recognize autism sooner and begin treatment. This will help a child adjust, and it may lead to better outcomes. Some early signs that may point to autism include the following: if your baby is not smiling back at you by six months of age, if the baby doesnt seem interested in looking at peoples faces, is not pointing, is not imitating sounds or gestures, or is not babbling by one year of age. Also of concern if your child is not using words by 16 months, or if he or she shows a loss or regression of any language or social skills before age two years. Older toddlers with autism may want to play by themselves, will not engage in pretend-play, will not respond to their name, or will not acknowledge other children playing alongside them. They may line up objects and sort them into colors, or have difficulty making eye contact with other people. If your child exhibits only one of these symptoms, its probably not autism. If several of the symptoms are noticed or you are simply concerned about your childs development, please talk to your childs doctor, so more definitive developmental testing can be performed. Hopefully tips like this will help develop your understanding of when to be concerned that your child may be showing signs of autism.

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