Although most children reach major developmental milestones within a similar time frame, kids can develop at different rates. One child may reach a particular milestone sooner than another child his same age. Other children can be slightly behind in their development. Autism Speaks recommends discussing any concerns you have with your child’s pediatrician, especially if he loses skills he previously had. Developmental delays can be a sign of an autism spectrum disorder.
Signs of Developmental Delays
Despite a child reaching normal developmental milestones during infancy, often kids with autism start to slip behind or even lose skills by the time they are 18 to 24 months old, notes Raising Children Network. Basic developmental delays that occur in infancy and childhood generally involve learning to talk and relating to others socially. Since the severity of symptoms varies, some autistic children have average or above-average intelligence with only mild impairments. Other children with autism have below-average intelligence, additional health conditions and a host of other problems. Common symptoms of the disorder include difficulty understanding and using language, odd and repetitive behaviors, extreme sensitivity to sensory stimuli and a lack of social skills.
What to Look For
Children with autism typically have problems with social interactions, which leads to trouble communicating their thoughts and feelings. For example, your baby may have a problem if she doesn’t respond to her name by the time she is 6 or 7 months old. Even though children who don't have autism can be delayed in their speech and language development, most kids understand simple directions and use simple two-word phrases by age 2. If your child doesn’t use gestures or verbal language by this age, the delay in her language skills could signal a problem.
When to Be Concerned
An article for Helpguide.org points out the importance of tracking your child’s development. Although delays in cognitive, emotional and social milestones don't necessarily mean a child has autism, they could indicate your child is at risk for the disorder. There may be no need for worry if your child doesn’t talk as early as other children, but it is something you should bring to his pediatrician’s attention. Avoid taking on a wait-and-see approach. If it turns out your child has an autism spectrum disorder, the earlier he receives intervention, the better his outcome will be.
What to Do
Even if your child is reaching her developmental milestones on time, all children should receive autism and other developmental screenings at routine checkups. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that health care providers screen all children for autism at 9, 18 and 30 months old. The time for parents to discuss concerns about a child’s development or behavior is during well-child visits. DrSears Wellness Institute advises not waiting until your child receives a diagnosis of autism before seeking intervention. Because children often don’t meet all the criteria until after age 3, you can lose valuable treatment time if you wait. Parents should ask for developmental therapies as soon as they suspect their child has a developmental problem.
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