Autism spectrum disorder, more commonly referred to as simply ‘autism’, refers to an assortment of conditions. It is characterized by difficulties in social skills, communication challenges, and restrictive behaviors, interests, and activities that are repetitive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is a developmental disability. The term ‘spectrum’ illustrates the large variety of challenges and strengths that each person who is affected by autism possesses. Despite extensive research, a single cause for autism has not been identified. It is believed to be the result of a combination of both genetic and non-genetic (environmental) influences. It is important to remember that though these influences can increase the risk of autism, an increased risk is not a cause. For instance, people with autism share the same genetic changes as people who are not affected by the disorder. Also, not everyone who is affected by a non-genetic risk factor will develop autism.
Autism affects about 1 in every 68 people. The most obvious signs typically appear between the ages of 2 and 3 years old; however, in some cases, a diagnosis can be made as young as 18 months. Given the fact that autism is so prevalent, it is important for parents to be aware of the early symptoms because while there is no cure, the earlier it’s diagnosed, the earlier intervention can begin.
If you notice any of the following early signs of autism, speak to your child’s pediatrician to discuss your concerns.
1. Nonresponsive when their name is called
Typically, babies will respond to their names even before they are able to speak fully understand spoken language. By the age of 2, a child should certainly be responsive to her name. If you notice that your baby or toddler is not responding when you call her name, there is a chance that it could be an early sign of autism. However, there are other factors that could be contributing to the lack of response. For instance, there may be a problem with hearing. In either case, it is important to speak to a doctor.