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Autism warning signs

According to Autism Speaks Canada, symptoms of autism can be seen in children as young as 1 year of age. It is important to know what warning signs to look for. Early detection and treatment of autism has the best prognosis.

Autism awareness ribbon

The thought that your child might not be developing at the same rate of other children can be a source of worry for many parents. It’s important to remember that children develop at different rates. You might find that one child begins to talk earlier than another or that one child begins to walk earlier than another. However, if you notice that your child is delayed in social skills and language, you might be concerned about autism.

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If you are concerned, it is important to talk to a doctor who will be able to address your worries. A number of other conditions, such as developmental and intellectual disorders, have symptoms similar to autism. It is also possible that your child is developing within the wide range of normal development. If autism is a concern to you, remember that autism is a spectrum, with varying severities of symptoms. Shannon Rosa, senior editor and co-founder of and a mom to a son with autism, feels that it is important to identify autistic kids as soon as possible. Rosa points out that the sooner you have an autism diagnosis, the sooner you will be able to understand your child’s wants and needs. Identifying autistic children early can ensure that the child and the family are able to receive the support they need.

Autism infographic -- click to download

No babbling

Babbling is an important building block of language learning. Most children will be babbling by the time they are a year old. If your child is not babbling by this time, it is important to talk to your doctor about normal childhood development. Another warning sign of autism is your child’s not using words. By 16 months of age, most children should be able to say a few words. Once your child has reached their second birthday, they should be able to put two words together with meaning, such as “Mama up” or “want milk.” Loss of language is also a red flag.

Lack of emotion

Autism is a condition that can affect how an individual communicates and relates to others. Therefore, one of the warning signs of autism spectrum disorder is a lack of showing emotion. This includes no smiling or laughing by the age of 6 months. Another warning sign of autism is your child’s not mirroring emotions by 9 months. This means your child doesn’t smile or laugh in response to being smiled at.

Learn tips to prepare for toddler development and behaviour >>

No gestures

For a toddler, who has limited language ability, gestures are an important way to communicate. By the time your child is a year old, he or she should be able to engage in some back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, waving or reaching. Your child should also be able to look at an object you are pointing to by the age of 1 year.

Not engaging with people

As mentioned, autism is a condition that affects social skills. Therefore, a warning sign of autism is lack of engagement with people. You might notice your child is not able to maintain eye contact. Another warning sign is their not liking to cuddle or to be picked up. By 16 months, your child should be able to recognize when a caregiver leaves. Not recognizing a caregiver leaving is another warning sign of autism. It is important to remember that any regression in social or language skills is a red flag.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 50 children is diagnosed with autism, so this issue appears to be more common than most people are aware. April is Autism Awareness Month, with April 2 being declared by the government of Canada as World Autism Day. To show your support, wear blue on this day. Even if your family is not affected by autism, it is quite possible you will meet someone who has been diagnosed with autism. In Rosa’s experience, many people react with pity when she tells them of her son’s diagnosis. Autism Awareness Month is a great time to start learning about autism to reduce the negative stigma associated with this condition and allow individuals who are living with autism to live happy lives.

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