Is it possible to spot signs of autism in babies?

A 10-point checklist of possible autism-related signs may help parents recognise the condition earlier

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A study has indicated it may be possible to diagnose autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in some toddlers as young as 14 months, reports Science Daily. And the expert behind the study wants parents to be empowered to spot potential indicators of autism and communication delays.

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The study, by Dr Rebecca Landa from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kentucky Krieger Institute, USA, looked at baby siblings of autistic children to try and identify potential signs of the condition as early as possible.

Though signs of autism and the age they appear can vary from child to child, Dr Rebecca suggests parents are best placed to understand their baby’s development.

“We want to encourage parents to become good observers of their children’s development,” explained Dr Rebecca. “So that they can see the earliest indicators of delays in a baby’s communication, social and motor skills.”

Dr Rebecca also said some children with ASD only develop symptoms after they turn 2, or appear to be developing as expected at first then regress. It’s also worth remembering that not all children who have development delays have an ASD.

Dr Rebecca explained, “If parents suspect something is wrong with their child’s development, or that their child is losing skills, they should talk to their pediatrician or another developmental expert. Don’t adopt a ‘wait and see’ perspective. We want to identify delays early in development so that intervention can begin when children’s brains are more malleable and still developing their circuitry.”

When you play with your baby, aged 6 months to 12 months, Dr Rebecca suggests you look out for these 10 things:

  • Your child rarely smiles when approached
  • She rarely tries to mimic sounds or movement such as smiling
  • Delayed or infrequent babbling
  • Doesn’t respond to her name from 6-12 months
  • Makes no gestures to try and communicate by 10 months
  • Poor eye contact
  • Rarely seeks your attention
  • Repeatedly stiffens arms, hands and legs and makes unusual body movements
  • She doesn’t reach up when you go to pick her up
  • Delays in her motor development, such as rolling over, pushing and crawling

Earlier this year another study claimed to have created a test than could diagnose autism at just 6 months, suggesting indicators may be there from a very early age, even if we can’t spot them.

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