I was so thrilled when I had my second baby, and couldn’t wait to see him accomplishing milestones. But to our surprise, things didn’t go as we expected with our new baby. We knew that every baby is different in terms of growth and achieving developmental milestones, but this was different from any of that. Upon our pediatrician’s advice, we started noticing certain behaviors that weren’t normal and found out that we were right all along. Our baby was showing signs of autism, but thankfully we were able to treat the condition, as we figured it out early. Today my post is dedicated to all the parents who find that their baby is not reaching his milestones as he should. I will share some signs and behavior anomalies that will help you diagnose autism and treat it accordingly. Remember early diagnosis is key to treating your baby’s condition!
Autism is a complex disability associated with development, and affects your baby’s social skills like learning, playing, and interacting. It can be mild or severe and according to a survey 1 in 40 babies are autistic, in the US today. Genetics and environmental conditions along with certain special circumstances play a key role in determining autism in babies. First, three years are extremely important during a child’s development, and any anomalies detected in this period can help treat the condition before it worsens. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that babies should also be screened for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) along with other disorders. Some parents are able to recognize the early signs of autism in their baby when they are 6-12 months old. Some behavioral signs in babies as young as 12 months, can accurately predict the likelihood of a child developing autism. Autism is one of the most growing developmental disorder in the modern-day and can be diagnosed with a biomarker during early developmental stages. But this biomarker is only effective 80% and is used for infants who are at risk of autism more, due to genetics. Since early detection is the key in ASD, most doctors advise parents to observe certain behavioral patterns and use standardized tools like Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT), for early detection and timely treatment. With a lot of research being done on Autism, pediatricians can now detect autism in babies as young as 6 months with the help of the Autism Observation Scale for Infants. The Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI) has helped both parents and doctors a lot in early diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
What are the signs of autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder appears early during infancy or childhood and can affect your baby’s chief areas of development like talking, playing, and interacting. Autism can have different effects and symptoms on different babies.
Some babies show mild signs while others have complex symptoms to overcome. But all the babies show a certain degree of problems in the following areas of their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Autism signs in a 3 months old baby
- Does not follow the moving objects through eyes
- Loud noises do not bother them at all
- Does not hold and grasp objects
- Does not smile at their caregivers or other people
- Show no interest in new faces
- Lack of eye contact with parents, family, and other people
Autism signs in a 7 months old baby
- Does not try to find out the source of the sound
- Doesn’t show any affection for parents and siblings
- Does not laugh or smile
- Does not smile while laying or watching something
- Does not seek attention through actions
- Does not like playing peekaboo
- Show no response when called by name
Autism signs in a 12 months old baby
- Still unable to crawl
- Say no words at all
- No use of gestures like waving and shaking head
- Does not point to pictures and objects
- Is unable to stand with support
- Lack of verbal noises
Autism signs in an 18 months old child
- Your child will have delayed speech skills
- Would rather use gestures and facial expressions instead of talking
What causes Autism?
For years, scientists believed that Autism was the product of genetic anomaly, but recent studies have found that environmental factors contribute as much as genetics.
Most babies that are vulnerable to autism due to genetics, eventually develop autism due to an external trigger. Autism can be triggered when your baby is still in the womb or right after birth.
External environment triggers are not just pollution and toxins in the air that are responsible for triggering autism in newborns. The most important environment that has been found to be associated with ASD is the prenatal environment.
What prenatal environment factors cause autism in babies?
- Intake of anti-depressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months can increase the chances of autism in your baby.
- Folic acid deficiency and other nutritional deficiencies are also a contributing factor to autism in your baby.
- Sometimes the age of parents can also trigger autism.
- Certain complications during or right after birth can also be the cause of autism.
- Maternal infections during pregnancy can also act as a trigger.
- Exposure to chemical pollutants like metals and pesticides, during pregnancy, can also trigger ASD in your baby inside the womb.
How pediatricians screen for autism in babies?
Your baby’s healthcare provider will screen your baby for any signs of communication, and growth challenges Like Autism Spectrum Disorder. In this wellness checkup, they will also observe the following
- Your baby’s laugh and giggles
- Eye contact with the parents for reassurance
- Gestures to seek attention when feeling left out
- Ability to point and wave
- Response to his name and cries
The pediatrician will also ask you some of the following questions:
- Your family history
- Health examination
- Your perspective
All this information helps your doctor in determining the risk of your baby developing ASD.
Tips to reduce the risk of autism in expecting mothers
Expecting mothers can take following measures, to prevent the onset of autism in their babies:
Make sure to take multivitamins during your pregnancy, especially 400 micrograms of folic acid on daily basis. This helps in preventing birth defects like spina bifida.
Consult your doctor before taking SSRIs
Mothers who develop depression during pregnancy, or are having SSRI should ask their doctors regarding the side effects on their baby. You need to be considerate of your depression as well because your mental well-being is very important for your baby as well.
Practice prenatal care
Through regular checkups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet, you will certainly give birth to a very healthy baby.
Do vaccines play role in developing autism?
It is really hard to protect your baby from certain environmental dangers. Also, no technology has been able to stop genetic inheritance from happening. But, there is one thing that you can do to protect your child from environmental factors, and diseases i.e. vaccination.
Most people associate vaccines with the cause of autism, which is false. 5 major epidemiological studies that were carried out in the US, UK, Sweden, and Denmark found, that babies who were vaccinated on time developed no risk of autism. Many other organizations that have also conducted tests and concluded no relation between autism and vaccines are
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- US Food and Drug Administration
- American Academy of pediatricians
- World Health Organization
Early intervention services for autistic babies
Babies until the age of 2 years are given early intervention treatment. An individualized Family Service Plan is developed for the parents and comprises of the needs and specific services for your baby.
An IFSP consists of various therapies like behavior, physical, speech, and play therapies. These therapies will help your baby transition easily to school. Early Intervention Services are given at home or a child care center. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations for early intervention services.
Every child has different developmental progress, but if your baby is not fulfilling the milestones, talk to your pediatrician without any further delay.
Early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder can be very helpful in reversing the symptoms. Early intervention approaches will help you devise a treatment plan that best meets the requirements of your baby.