Researchers Find First Signs of Autism Even in Infancy
“Researchers Find First Signs of Autism Even in Infancy.”
Upon hearing this title, I immediately thought of a baby’s first year of life. In my personal experience, my son’s first year was smooth sailing except for some “annoying” ear infections and food allergies.
It was the second year of his life, around 14-17 months (as mentioned), when things seemed to change for my son. That’s when I really became concerned. No more peek-a-boo. No more pretending with a telephone. Attempts to say words and interest in other people quickly seemed to decrease and then disappear.
I fully agree that earlier detection and diagnosis of autism would be beneficial. Even in my case, knowing what autism looked like in later years, I did not realize that the challenges my son was displaying were the tale-tell signs of the beginnings of autism. Most parents are aware there is a problem before 3 years of age, the typical age of diagnosis.
It is often difficult, not only in figuring out how to get a diagnosis, but also finding out what action to take. Many parents share a similar story of voicing their concerns to the pediatrician only to be reassured, “he’s fine, children develop at different rates.” If concerns are present, organizations such as First Signs will be able to help confirm ‘at risk’ behaviors.
I would love to see more programs that coach parents, such as the one the University of Washington is studying. Empowering parents with intervention strategies for at-risk babies as early as 8 months would be an effective strategy for establishing the social/emotional connection that is the foundation for language development.
Besides emphasizing a playful spirit and structuring interactions to promote eye contact and babbling, additional strategies may help. Accentuating reciprocal, non-verbal exchanges; reducing unnecessary environmental stimuli (so it is easier for the child to focus on you); and building simple games and playful interactions around the child’s natural motivations by following the child’s lead can increase therapy effectiveness. More strategies, books, videos and other resources can be found at the James Macdonald, Floor Time, and Son-Rise websites.
In addition, it would also be beneficial to holistically assess the at-risk infant’s health signs in more detail. Ear infections, food allergies, and digestive issues are common in the history of children with autism. Finding a naturopathic doctor or DAN! doctor in your area who is familiar with significant biomedical testing and nutritional supplementation may also prove significant as an early intervention strategy. You may also want to consider diet changes and/or an alternative vaccination schedule, which can both be discussed with a knowledgeable doctor.
Tara McClintick is an Early Childhood/Special Education teacher as well as a Son-Rise mom. A great deal of Tara’s 20+ years experience has been working one on one with her youngest son, Jake, who was diagnosed with severe autism shortly after his first birthday.
Jake is now 13 and together they continue the journey towards learning and recovery through nutritional and natural methods. Tara also creates fun, unique picture books for kids using real-life scenes and images www.BooksByTara.com.
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