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Smart Woman: Early Signs of Autism

The Centers for Disease Control now estimates 1 in 88 children have autism in the U.S. Experts say the best thing parents can do is educate themselves about the early warning signs.
Five year old David Karran was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.

Mother Vanessa Karran said, "His first year I just noticed he was very unresponsive to me. He didn't have any language whatsoever, didn't want to imitate, that's when I knew I needed to get early intervention."

His mom got him help right away.

"Since he is non verbal, we're trying to get him to communicate by pointing to requests instead of grabbing like he normally would," said ABA Therapist Melvina Hilliard.

While the symptoms of autism may not be obvious until after a child's first birthday, a recent study autism speaks funded shows an MRI can detect changes in the brain of autistic children as early as six months.

"Together with observations about behavior, early brain markers may give us a more accurate ability to predict who's going to have autism," said Dr. Joseph Piven of UNC School of Medicine.

Experts say the best thing parents can do now is lookout for early signs and have their child evaluated if they have concerns.

Some red flags include no babbling, pointing, reaching, or waving by 12 months, no words by 16 months and any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.
 
Karran said, "You're basically their voice. And you have to speak out for them."
 
With early intervention, some children can make significant progress and it can make it easier for the parents.

"I'm reaching him in a way, even though he can't tell me, you know, talk back to me, I'm still reaching him and that means a lot to me," said Karran.

She says even little improvements make her optimistic about David's future.

Some other signs to look for include poor eye contact and a child who resists cuddling and holding.
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