Does Your Baby Show Symptoms of Autism?
Do you wonder if your baby is autistic? You might feel intuitively that something is “amiss” with your infant. Up until now, most experts have based their diagnosis of this disorder on social interaction, language acquisition and learning skills — all aspects of development that don’t become apparent until your child is at least 2 years of age.
However, an important breakthrough now makes it possible to spot precursors of these disorders in infants once you know what to look for.
Here are seven general areas where atypical brain development makes itself known in autistic babies.
1. Symmetry: Examples: When your baby begins reaching for objects, he should be equally capable of reaching for them with either his right or left hand. When your baby props himself up from his stomach, his hands and arms should be positioned more or less the same on both sides of his body.
2. Reflexes: Reflexes such as sucking, rooting, startle and others should appear in all babies, but should also fade according to a fairly preset timetable. A trained professional can find out easily if your baby has nine key reflexes at the right time in his development.
3. Ladder of Motor Development: Every baby must go through every stage of development — in order — for his brain to mature properly. These milestones include raising his head off the floor (4-6 weeks); placing his head in a vertical position (5-8 weeks); supporting his raised head with chest and arms (8-12 weeks); righting — rolling from his back to his stomach (12 weeks); first crawling steps (6-10 months); sitting (6 months); standing (8-10 months); and walking (11-13 months).
4. Righting: Typical righting — or rolling from back to stomach — involves a rotation of the head in the direction of the roll, and a corkscrew rotation of the torso that follows in the same direction.
5. Crawling: Typical crawling involves a contralateral, or cross-crawl, pattern.
6. Sitting: Sitting is a normal process that is very important for brain development. A baby with typical brain development should be coordinated enough to sit, balanced, without the support of parents or pillows at about 6 months of age.
7. Walking: There are many aspects of the complicated set of movements that make up walking, and it builds on the skills the child learned previously. A baby with problem walking who does not get help may have problems acquiring future motor abilities.
The earlier autism is diagnosed and therapy is begun, the greater the chance your child can be helped.
Osnat and Philip Teitelbaum are pioneering researchers in the field of infant movement analysis as it relates to autism and are coauthors of the new book, “Does Your Baby Have Autism?” (Square One, April 2008). In their book, parents can learn about the specific symptoms to watch for, along with the exercises you can do with your baby at home to help his brain develop.
AUTISM FAST FACTS
* Autism spectrum disorders, commonly referred to as autism, are brain based developmental disabilities characterized by language delays or other communication problems, poor or limited social skills and repetitive, rigid and other unusual behaviors.
* The symptoms of autism vary widely from child to child and range from mild to severe.
* Once considered rare, autism is now estimated to affect 1 in every 150 children in the United States; every 20 minutes a child is diagnosed.
* Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls, and occurs in children of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
* Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States. It is more prevalent than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.
* When parents first suspect early signs of autism, or that their child is developing differently, they should express these concerns to their pediatrician and ask for an autism screening. Symptoms can often be detected by 18 months of age or earlier.
* Research indicates that early identification and intensive early intervention can result in significant positive outcomes for many children with autism.
Reprinted from The Health Group. Visit their Web site for more information about the early signs of autism.