Autism is a brain development disorder that results in repetitive behavior with inability to communicate and interact socially. As it develops in early childhood, parents must be vigilant to notice various signs of autism in their infant.
Children live in a world of their own. They experience, feel and see things differently. However, when a child seems to be lost in his world for too long, and does not progress from his world to the real world, it is an indication that something may not be right. It is easier for parents to grasp the severity and depth of autism when their child has reached a certain age, but it is difficult to identify this problem in infants and toddlers. Understanding and checking for autism symptoms in infants can not only be confusing to comprehend, but complex to diagnose as well. Before looking at the early signs of this problem, let us first understand the causes that lead to autism.
Causes of autism have been bogged down with many misconceptions, primarily of bad parenting and not doing things right during the pregnancy period. Nothing could be farther from truth than this myth. Some research conducted on older autistic children have indicated the absence of certain nerve cells in different parts of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, etc., responsible for emotions, learning disorders, and development of autism in children. Other studies believe that autism occurs due to genetic mutations in the brain, though its method is still unclear. Studies were carried out by Dr. Karin Nelson, MD, a child neurologist with the National Institutes of Health, and her colleagues in the field of autism. Blood of infants who were in their later years of autism was compared with other babies. Blood of autistic babies showed the presence of a protein molecule, vasoactive intestinal peptide, that is responsible for affecting brain development. More tests are being carried out to ascertain the causes so that new therapies can be identified and developed for treating autistic infants.
Early Symptoms of Autism in Infants
As autism is a spectrum disorder, the signs and symptoms of autism may vary. A fixed or particular type of symptom cannot be used as a standard for diagnosing autism in infants. Most symptoms don’t exhibit themselves very clearly until the child has reached the age of two. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), some of the symptoms one could keep an eye for are listed below.
- Unable to speak even a single word by the age of 16 months.
- Has increased or reduced level of activity.
- Does not babble.
- Does not smile.
- The baby avoids making eye contact.
- Does not try to grab attention.
- Doesn’t make gestures or reacts to them.
- Not interested in playing with toys.
- Seems to have hearing problems at times.
Besides the above, the baby may not respond to his or her name, point or generally wave, follow objects visually, cry when left alone, and does exhibit anxiety around strangers. The baby prefers not to be held or cuddled, and does not even enjoy simple clapping or peekaboo kind of games. Autistic infants may exhibit one or more of the symptoms mentioned above.
Parents want the best for their children, and at times, may seem to get a little paranoid if their child hasn’t developed as normally expected. What one needs to bear in mind is that each child is different from another. It would be best if you can get your child screened regularly as he grows around his developmental milestones. Discuss all the details about your child’s activity, no matter how small, with the doctor. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should receive routine developmental screenings and screenings for autism as well, at the age of 9, 18, and 30 months. Although accepting the fact that your child is autistic will definitely be difficult for parents, an early diagnosis of autism with the help of its symptoms and a number of specialized screening tools, will go a long way in ensuring a happy and near normal life for your precious child.