My first full-time job after graduating from college, was at a school for children with autism. As a 22-year-old, I didn’t know much about autism and actually thought it was a rare occurrence. I had a lot less perspective than I do now. Now that I’m a parent, I’m around more families, so not only do I encounter more children with autism, but a good friend of ours has a daughter who was recently diagnosed with autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html)
As parents, we celebrate so many of our children’s milestones with Facebook posts, photos, detailed entries in baby books, and phone calls to loved ones. Imagine if your child were late in reaching these milestones. Life as a parent is so fast-paced, and we love our children so much, that I can see how signs of autism may go unnoticed. What strikes me most about autism is the fact that the characteristic behaviors of autism may or may not be apparent in infancy, but usually become obvious during early childhood. Although there are many “late bloomers” and children develop on extremely different timelines, it’s important to visit your doctor often and watch for signs/behaviors listed below.
As part of a well-baby/well-child visit, your child’s doctor should perform a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your baby’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists five behaviors that warrant further evaluation:
- Does not babble or coo by 12 months
- Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
- Does not say single words by 16 months
- Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
- Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age
Any of these five “red flags” does not mean your child has autism. But because the symptoms of the disorder vary so much, a child showing these behaviors should have further evaluations by a multidisciplinary team. This team may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant or other professionals knowledgeable about autism. (http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism/symptoms/)
This week we are doing our small part to spread the word about Autism by sharing this information and donating a portion of sales from lollaland.com to Team Zoe. We encourage you to support Team Zoe (directly or through lollaland.com) or any Autism-related organization/cause before the month ends.