Autism is everywhere, it seems. As better diagnostic techniques are developed and more children are identified for treatment, media coverage of the condition is also on the rise. Parents may be confused on the signs, the causes, and how to best help their children.
Autism is part of an umbrella of disorders called “autism spectrum disorders.” These vary in symptoms and severity, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in every 68 children has some form. Boys are four times as likely as girls to develop autism.
What Causes Autism?
While the exact cause of autism is unknown, physicians do know that there is a genetic link in some cases. Most likely, something occurs in the child’s brain development before he or she is born that results in the condition.
Some argue that immunizations, diet, allergies or hormones could contribute to a child developing autism, but this is not true. All children should be immunized to protect them from preventable and potentially deadly illnesses.
How Do I Know if My Child Has Autism?
There are no clear-cut criteria for autism, so it is can be a challenge to make a formal diagnosis because every case is different. However, there are some key signs to look out for, including:
Age 6 months:
If your child does not smile back at you or sustain eye contact for more than a few moments. The child may not turn to you when you call his or her name.
If your child does not imitate faces and clapping, or gestures such as waving. He or she will not follow a pointing command from a parent, and will not use pointing to signal things he or she wants.
In general, communication and social interaction delays, and repetitive interests and behavior, can all signal possible autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Act Early” Web site gives detailed information on child development by age.
For More Information
For more information on autism, please visit these links:
We know having a child suspected of having autism can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help. Feel free to contact us anytime to schedule an appointment or to learn more about what options are available at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.