With increasing incidence of autism, parents are often alarmed when their child is not developing in the same way as other children his/her age. When parents bring their child in for an evaluation at our clinic, there are times when I can see that question or worry in their faces. Well, as clinicians, we always look for “the red flags” in any child who is showing delays or differences in his/her communication skills. Identifying a few signs doesn’t mean a diagnosis, but it will mean that the child may need a more comprehensive evaluation. Usually, for a child to be diagnosed with autism, he/she will need to be evaluated by a team of professionals often including a pediatrician, pediatric neurologist or neuropsychologist, a speech-language pathologist, an audiologist, an occupational therapist, etc.
The following is a list of behaviors that are considered “red flags” for autism (www.autismspeaks.org).
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
If you see any of the above signs please consult your pediatrician and see a speech-language pathologist for speech and langauge evaluation. Remember, early intervention can make a big difference!