How to Know When it Might be Autism

How to Know When it Might be Autism | Baby Chick

How to Know When it Might be Autism

As a pediatric occupational therapist, one of the questions I get asked most often when working with new parents is “what are the early signs of autism?” It is a very good question and requires a comprehensive answer.

The most important thing that I always tell parents is to educate themselves on typical early childhood development. When parents know what important milestones to expect at each age, if a developmental delay presents itself parents can identify it immediately and seek early intervention. Even though there is no cure for autism, early intervention makes a tremendous difference in a child’s outcome. Recent studies have found that autism can now be identified as early as 18 months and in some rare cases, intensive early therapy has actually reversed the effects of autism because the still-developing brain can be re-wired.

I am always conscientious of saying early “indicators” of autism verses “warning signs” of autism as the latter carries with it such a negative connotation. It is important to remember that as devastating as this developmental disability can be, all children are unique, amazing, and individual. With the proper support network in place, children and their families can still thrive and live happy, productive lives. That being said, let’s collectively do all we can to give every child the best start possible!

What does it mean to be on the Autism spectrum?

According to the CDC, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities that affect a child’s brain development. They are called “spectrum disorders” because they affect each child differently, ranging from very mild to severe. The primary types of ASDs are autistic disorder, often referred to as “classic” autism, asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Most of the ASDs are characterized by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, intellectual abilities, gross and fine motor skills, and attention.

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I cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to understand typical development. ASDs are identified by the absence of typical behaviors, not the presence of abnormal ones. Parents can educate themselves in so many ways. There are countless DVDs, apps, blogs, books, websites, and magazines on early childhood development. American Academy of Pediatrics has a great website. Some wonderful books are Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane Healy, Your Baby’s First Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Baby Development Everything You Need to Know by Dr. Claire Halsey.

When parents have a good understanding of what typical development looks like, they are better equipped to spot delays or early indicators of ASDs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a great page on Signs and Symptoms of ASDs. Autism Speaks also has a good page on early signs of autism.

Observe your children closely in different situations and do not rely on your pediatrician to point out delays. The delays might not present themselves during your ten minute doctor appointment. Your pediatrician is a valuable partner, but your own observations are most important.

Please remember that every child develops a little differently, and at their own pace, so do not panic if your baby is a little bit late to hit a milestone, and try not to compare your child to other children. Early development is very highly variable. Remember that ASDs involve a variety of developmental delays, so consider your baby’s social, emotional, motor, and cognitive milestones. Also developmental delays don’t always mean autism. In some cases they carry a heightened risk, but not always. Trust your instincts!

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Symptoms of autism usually start to surface between 12 and 18 months. The earliest signs of autism are marked by the absence of normal behaviors, not the presence of abnormal behaviors, so they can be hard to spot. Autism can sometimes present itself by what babies “don’t” do as opposed to what babies “do”.

The Don’ts of Autism

Babies demonstrate early signs of autism when they:

don’t respond to cuddling
don’t reach to be picked up
don’t make eye-contact
don’t smile when you smile at them
don’t make noises or imitate facial expressions
don’t point or wave goodbye
don’t respond to their name or familiar voices
don’t follow objects visually

There is a great assessment that parents can do on their own. It is called the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) and it can be found online. It is a very simple yes/no checklist and results can be printed and reviewed with your pediatrician.

ASDs are not only a hot topic right now with 1 in 59 children being diagnosed and the medical community scratching their heads about this staggering increase in cases, but it is also a very sensitive topic, as so many families are dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. This article is actually not just geared toward families with children who may be on the spectrum, but it is geared toward the community at large. Autism is all around us. Families need support and understanding. Everyone should have an understanding of autism and how to best support people of any age who are on the spectrum and their families.

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About the Author /

Dr. Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist and has been working in pediatrics for 20 years. Ketchum works in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at UPMC Pinnacle Hospital and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. Ketchum is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company.

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Instagram post 17920976449353517 💪 Mom Hacks for Staying Fit After Having Kids⁠
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Going to keep it real here, your fitness game is going to change after having kids. If you were crushing it before having babies, you're going to find that the free time for working out isn't what is used to be.⁠
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Regardless of where you were at, there are things you can do to make your heath a priority and be a good example to your little ones.⁠
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1. Don't rush back. There's no gold star here. Take your time, get the clearance from your OB/midwife and start when you're ready.⁠
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2. Schedule your workouts. Like most things in life now, you're on a schedule. Create time in your new life for you -- you'll thank yourself later.⁠
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3. Ask for Help. Chances are high that the Mom down the street is looking for some kid free time as well. You take an hour, she takes an hour and we're all better off for it.⁠
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4.  Embrace the little things. Your day will present opportunities to get your butt moving. Find them.⁠
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5. Get a new outfit. Because, duh.⁠
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6. Join a fitness community. It's scientifically proven that external motivators work when it comes to starting and sticking with a fitness routine. Utilize your community for support and motivation.⁠
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Words & 📸 : @juna.moms⁠
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When you meet your baby(ies) and your whole world changes. 💕
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Instagram post 18110828746014338 The first year after baby is the leading time when marriages break up. The extra stress, lack of sleep, and major life changes can all contribute to communication breakdown and losing intimacy. 💔 That's why protecting relationships is such an important part of postpartum planning (done in pregnancy). Parenthood is an emotionally provocative experience. These heightened emotions help you tune into your baby's needs, but it can also help you tune into each other.⁠
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Speak your partner's love language in postpartum. Send this resource to your loved one so that they can make you feel loved and supported in a meaningful way.⁠
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Instagram post 17934950050319412 EXACTLY! 🙌 I wish more moms knew this and didn't feel pressured to say yes automatically to guests--of course, unless they want to! 😊 But you can always say no and not right now. Take your time to bond with your new baby. If you want people to come over, great! But don't feel bad if you don't and want more time alone with your family. People who love you should understand. ❤️⁠
(quote via @psychedmommy)⁠
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Instagram post 17857907638591275 Dinner time with toddlers can oftentimes be hectic and stressful. Sometimes they’ll eat what you’ve made them and other times they won’t. 😒 We’ve been there! This is why we are sharing two yummy dinner recipes that have been toddler approved that the whole family can enjoy—Taco Pizza and Stuffed Sweet Potatoes! 😋
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We substituted sour cream in these recipes with @stonyfield YoBaby yogurt because it provides not only the calcium they need, but also probiotics, protein and vitamin D! 👍 (Our pediatrician says our little guy needs 2-4 servings of dairy per day!) The yogurt still has that tangy flavor that you’re looking for but with even more benefits! Cheers to full tummies and happy families! 🙌 #ad #stonyfield
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Instagram post 17882796163445028 Happy Halloween! 🎃 Hope there is minimal (to no) whining and you don't have to break out your inner Mary Poppins to still create a magical evening with the family. ⁠
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And if there is some toddler nonsense, remember you can eat their candy while they sleep. 😜⁠
📷: @hipmomma007⁠
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Instagram post 17856924145605814 Your kids are listening. 👂 They are listening to everything that you're saying and are watching your body language and your behaviors even when you think they're not. If you want your children to be patient, you must practice patience. If you want your children to be kind, you must show kindness. If you want your children to share, to include others, etc., you must teach them and lead by example. “Do as I say not as I do” does not work. The greatest lessons are taught by action and if you want them to be great, give them something great to look up to. ❤️⁠
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Instagram post 18110876884020847 Of course you love being a mom. You love your kids. You love your family. And you would NEVER change any of it. But it's okay to acknowledge that motherhood is hard and that there are parts of it that we don't always love. This does not make us bad moms. We have limits, we get tired and we're human.⁠
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I think sharing only the beautiful sides of motherhood to women who don't have children does them a disservice. It's important to have an understanding of what the reality is like so if they decide to have a baby welcoming their little one and becoming a mom is not as jarring or eye-opening. It doesn't mean that we should fear-monger. It's just being honest about all sides of motherhood--the crazy, exhausting, beautiful and best thing ever. ❤️⁠
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