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It is World Autism Awareness Month. What a great time to look at the signs of this disorder. Autism is becoming a common word in school hallways, parent-teacher conference conversations, doctor office waiting rooms, and social media. But the popularity isn’t something that anyone with a child aspires to. A diagnosis of autism can leave a family reeling from shock and worry, but with resources like the Autism Resource Center of Central Massachusetts they aren’t left dealing with it alone. If you are worried about your child, wanting to know what signs of autism to watch for, and what to do, read on. If you want to help aid in research and parent and child support systems, you can donate cars and get the funds from your old, unused wheels to children and families that can use some good news.
One of the clearest ways used to diagnose a child with autism is to see where they are in meeting typical milestones for their age. Are they responding to interaction with their caregivers? Do they respond to conversations by attempting to mimic your sounds? Do they make nonsense sounds and try out baby “words” by 12 months? If they aren’t communicating in a way that is typical for their age you should visit with your doctor. Delayed development does not guarantee an autism diagnosis, but it will give your pediatrician an idea of what to watch for. Here are standard developmental milestones to watch for:
- 6 months or later- No smiles or happy facial expressions
- 9 months- No shared sounds or facial expressions
- 12 months- No babbling
- 12 months- No inter-person gestures (pointing, waving, gesturing)
- 16 months- No communication with words
- 24 months- No two-word phrase communication by 24 months
- Any age- A sudden loss of speech or social skills
What to Do
If you find yourself facing an autism diagnosis for your child, no matter where it falls on the spectrum, from mild to severe, you can prepare yourself for what the future holds. Here are some things to remember.
- Autism isn’t something you have to deal with alone. More resources and greater understanding are making this diagnosis easier to deal with.
- Remember you’re the leader of a team. Take advantage of your resources, doctors, teachers, and friends, to help give your child the best experiences and chances you can.
- Take time for you. Autistic children can have some pretty intense needs from time to time and it’s important that their caregivers are able to meet those needs. In order to do that you need to practice self-nurturing habits. Quiet time, exercise, and good nutrition are a good place to start.
- Be patient. The developmental schedule for an autistic child is very different than other children. Be patient with their efforts, celebrate successes in a way that is meaningful to them, and take the wins you get.
With a good support system, good information, and a lot of love, your family can thrive and be strong no matter where your child falls on the autism spectrum.