What are the Early Signs of Autism?

April is Autism Awareness Month
by Shari Lopatin 

Did you know a child as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism, according to Autism Speaks?

“If your child does have autism, early intervention may be his or her best hope,” the organization says on its website. 

If you’re planning to have a baby or are currently pregnant, getting to know the early warning signs of autism can be a huge advantage for you and your kids. In fact, research suggests if you already have one child with autism, your risk of having another autistic child increases by about 20 percent, says Daniel Openden, vice president and clinical services director of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC). 

What are the early warning signs?

The following is a list of early warning signs that should serve as “red flags” to get your child checked, from SARRC and Autism Speaks: 

  • No good eye contact with you: babies learn through engaging with others.
  • No large smiles or other happy expressions by 6 months.
  • No variety of sounds (i.e. ba, ma, da) starting around 6 months.
  • No interest in exploring the world around them.
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds and facial expressions by 9 months.
  • No babbling by 12 months.
  • No single words by 16 months.
  • No meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months.

“Thus far, research presented by experts at several autism conferences suggests that, while we typically cannot reliably diagnose autism until children are about 2 years old, the earliest signs of autism may begin to emerge between 6 and 12 months of age,” Openden says.

My baby shows red flags. What should I do?

Talk to your pediatrician immediately. Together, you will determine the best steps to get your child evaluated for an autism spectrum disorder as quickly as possible. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that early intervention methods can greatly improve a child’s development. Therefore, if you suspect anything, don’t wait—have your child evaluated and, if necessary, begin early intervention right away.

TRICARE Covers ABA Therapy

TRICARE, the military healthcare benefit, covers Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for eligible children under its Enhanced Access to the Autism Services Demonstration. 

To get ABA services, children must have an active duty sponsor and be enrolled in TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option—or ECHO. Then, they must have an eligible diagnosis, be living in the United States and be 18 months or older.

The Autism Demonstration covers all therapies that fall under the umbrella of “Educational Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders,” which includes ABA. It also covers services from more providers than are available under the basic TRICARE coverage. Available providers must be TRICARE-authorized in order for the treatments to be covered.

For more information on ECHO and the Autism Services Demonstration, visit www.tricare.mil/echo.

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  1. Rob posted the following on April 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm.

    This is an extremely sensitive topic, especially for parents who are just discovering symptoms or are well into therapy for their child who displays signs of Autism. I am speaking from a point of view of a parent that had a child diagnosed at approximately 20 months with “Autism” by an Autism Specialist. I always questioned the diagnosis in my mind, but an “expert” provided my wife and I with this diagnosis so we went down the path in managing this condition with vengence. My son was not speaking quite like his sisters did at that age, and had difficulty making eye contact and loved to take off and run away with little regard to our presence, so the list of “symptoms” that were presented to us seemed to indicate that Autistic traits were present.

    My wife and I are now parents of this wonderful 15 year old boy, who clearly does not have Autism, and in my opinion never did. His diagnosis morphed over the years from Autistim to Aspergers to ADHD to “likley being on the spectrum somewhere”.

    My point in communicating through this post is that people should make sure that they are getting multiple opinions and if their gut tells them to get another opinion then do it. I don’t want to get too far down the path, but Autism specialists get paid for treating Autism just like Dermotologists get paid to cut away mysterious spots and Heart Surgeons get paid to work on people’s hearts. It is called “Fee for Service” and that is a serious problem with today’s medical system.

    In our dealing with our son’s “disorder” we met many families with kids who clearly do have Autism or are on the spectrum and this is a very painful and emotional ordeal for any family to experience, so I am not questioning the disease but want to share that it might be overly diagnosed because of our medical system.

    Good luck to you all.

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  2. Starlett Henderson posted the following on April 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm.

    Thanks Rob. I’m sure many will benefit from reading about your personal experience. Gaining a second (or even a third) opinion is definitely good practice. As parents, we are our kids’ greatest and sometimes only advocates!

    Thanks for sharing.

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