What are the early signs of autism?
Recognizing the early signs of autism is really important for all parents—not just because autism disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent, or because we know that the early signs that can be detected even before babies turn a year, but because early diagnosis and intervention can make a very big difference. Autism, by definition, includes a range of disorders—all of which include varying degrees of impairment in social interaction, the social use of language, and/or behavior (especially involving imaginative play). As you might imagine, children lacking in these sorts of skills tends to become much more obvious around the time that they near the age of 3. After all, that's when children normally start playing with each other (social play) rather than just alongside one another (parallel play). It's also when children not only get better at using their words, but do so to express themselves and interact socially.
Even though some of the most commonly recognized signs of autism become more apparent around the age of 3, it has become increasingly clear that there are earlier signs present even in infancy. In fact, in order to officially diagnose a child with an autistic disorder, there now has to be identifiable problems present before the age of 3. While they may seem basic, simple things such as a 3-month-old making eye contact, starting to smile, and imitating facial expressions, or a 7-month-old who joyfully responds to people, babbles, and likes to play are all reassuring developmental milestones. With early recognition clearly important, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has put together important and detailed milestone information in their Learn the Signs. Act Early campaign designed specifically to help parents understand normal development and recognize the early signs of autism. There, you will find even more details about what you can expect at each of the different ages, from 3 and 7 months to 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, as well as what to do if you're concerned about your child's social, emotional, and/or cognitive development.