Symptoms of Autism in Infants

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The symptoms of autism in infants include joint attention, which means the child looks to the mother to figure out how to react to novel things, and disinterest in their own name. Identify the early signs of autism with advice from a practicing pediatrician in this free video on autism.

Part of the Video Series: Autism Information
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill and today we're going to be talking about symptoms of autism in infants. When autism spectrum disorders were first discovered, we really didn't realize that they affected infants at all and we had no clue how to identify infants who would be at high risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder. As we learn more about autism, we're becoming better and better at identifying early signs. The earliest signs of autism, seem to involve something called joint attention or JA for short. That's when your baby knows that you and he are looking at or attending to the same stimulus. He may look to your face in a novel situation to see if everything is okay. When I enter the exam room for example with a six month old, or even better, a nine month old, I watch to see if he looks back at his mom's face to figure out if I'm a threating figure or someone to be trusted. I find that very reassuring. That means joint attention is excellent. If you're child seems to follow what you're interested in, or seems to want you to be interested in something he or she is looking at, that's very helpful. By nine months of age, most children should be able to identify their own name as a special word and know that it's not just another word they're hearing. So if you call your child's name and don't seem to get a response on a regular basis, that's a very concerning sign for autism. Also by nine months of age, most children understand the word, "no". That doesn't mean they always obey, but it means they know what you're trying to get at. If they don't seem to understand at all when you say "no," you need to at least be thinking about autism spectrum disorders. Although, they may also have a hearing disorder. Another thing your doctor can look at is the child's head circumference. Normally, as we do our wellness exams, we measure the size of the child's head. A head that grows abnormally quickly in the first year of life can come from a whole lot of things, but sometimes it is a sign of autism. That combined with other signs of autism, raise significant concern and suggest an earlier evaluation than we might otherwise do. So remember early on we can see if your child's head is growing too fast, if your infant is paying attention to the same things you are and is interested in what you think about things, whether your infant seems to recognize his or her name at nine months of age and recognize the word "no" at nine months of age, and whether in general he's treating you like a human being or like an object. If those warning signs are present, please bring up your concerns with your child's doctor. That person can send you to the right resources. And the earlier you get help, the better the outcome is likely to be. Talking about signs of autism in infants, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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