Kids With Special Needs: Symptoms of Autism
There are two parts to this: things that your child isn't doing but should be, and things that your child is doing.
Babies have a normal course of development and reach points we call developmental milestones at different points in time. When a baby is behind in these milestones, a parent should be mindful of the possibility of some form of developmental delay. Many times this does not mean that the child has autism, as there are other more mild forms of speech and language delay that ultimately are not serious. But having an awareness of what is normal is helpful in order to know if your baby might be behind.
The First Year
At 4 months of age, a baby should be able to:
- follow and react to bright colors, movement and objects.
- turn toward sounds.
- show interest in watching people's faces.
- smile back at you when you smile (sometimes referred to as a social smile).
At 6 months, a baby should be able to:
- relate to you with real joy.
- smile often while playing with you.
- coo or babble when happy and cry when unhappy.
By 9 months, a child should:
- smile and laugh while looking at you.
- exchange back-and-forth smiles, loving faces, and other expressions with you.
- exchange back-and-forth sounds with you.
- exchange back-and-forth gestures with you, such as giving, taking and reaching.
The Second Year
At 12 months, your child should:
- use a few gestures, one after another, to get needs met, like giving, showing, reaching, waving and pointing.
- play peek-a-boo, patty cake, or other social games, making sounds, like "ma," "ba," "na," "da," and "ga, and turning to the person speaking when his/her name is called.
At 15 months, your child should:
- exchange many back-and-forth smiles, sounds and gestures in a row with you.
- use pointing or other "showing" gestures to draw attention to something of interest.
- use different sounds to get needs met and draw attention to something of interest.
- use and understand at least three words, such as "mama," "dada," "bottle" or "bye-bye."
At 18 months, your child should:
- use lots of gestures with words to get needs met, like pointing or taking you by the hand and saying, "want juice."
- use at least four different consonants in babbling or words, such as m, n, p, b, t or d.
- use and understand at least 10 words.
- show that he or she knows the names of familiar people or body parts by pointing to or looking at them when they are named.
- do simple pretend play, like feeding a doll or stuffed animal, and attracting your attention by looking up at you.
The Third Year and Beyond
At 2 years old, your child should:
- do pretend play with you using more than one action (like feeding a doll and then putting the doll to sleep).
- use and understand at least 50 words and use at least two words together (without imitating or repeating) and in a way that makes sense, like "want juice."
- enjoy being next to children of the same age and show interest in playing with them.
- look for familiar objects out of sight when asked
- enjoy pretending to play different characters with you or talking with dolls or action figures.
- enjoy playing with children of the same age, perhaps showing and telling another child about a favorite toy.
- use thoughts and actions together in speech and in play in a way that makes sense, like "sleepy, go take nap" and "baby hungry, feed bottle."
- answer "what," "where" and "who" questions easily.
- talk about interests and feelings about the past and the future.
At 36 months, your child should:
Aside from missing milestones, there are a number of red flags to look for when considering autism. Children with autism often avoid eye contact, can be hypersensitive to sound, light, or touch, have difficulty pointing, ignore others in many social contexts, and may display repetitive behaviors, where they perform the some motor task over and over.
They can also display what parents call "stims," which are simply repetitive tasks such has hand flapping, toe tapping or other simple repetitive motor behaviors that look odd.
If your child is behind in a number of these milestones and is displaying some of these behaviors, you should consider undergoing an evaluation. It is important to consult with your pediatrician to set up testing. While many times a delay in milestones is not a problem, it is better to be careful and to be sure.