What are early warning signs parents should be looking for?
Detecting early signs of Autism is not a checklist of boxes. It is not one size fits all. Each family and child are different. Autism and overall developmental delays can be challenging to navigate. For most families, parents and caregivers may notice signs of missed milestones or regression in skills from 12 months of age.
The diagnosis of Autism may be received from 18 months. Detecting early signs of Autism may assist your child in early intervention to assist them in reaching goals.
Early key indicators for ASD may include the following
- Lack of or diminishment of babbling or missed milestone for beginning sounds, words, or phrases
- Lack of eye contact or orientation to attend to those speaking with no or reduced interest in those around him or her
- Lack of pointing and indicating people or objects of interest
- Lack of imitation of sounds or movements
- No response or diminished response to his or her name being called
- Repetitive or stereotypic behaviors such as insistence of lining up objects or fixation on a particular activity
- Maladaptive behaviors outside of expected typical development
How can early detection and treatment help improve the lives of affected children?
Early diagnosis and treatment of ASD is imperative to achieve the highest level of independence and quality of living for children impacted by the disorder. The outcomes and overall improvements are significant in the areas of communication, reduction or prevention of maladaptive behaviors, and building an appropriate social skills repertoire.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the #1 recommended treatment for children with ASD (surgeon general, APA). ABA works with the child and family to build skills needed to fill in gaps in learning, while reducing or replacing behaviors that are not appropriate. ABA treatment is individualized for each child and parent’s participation is vital in generalizing new skills across environments.
Common areas of treatment found in ABA programs include:
- Increasing communication skills
- Appropriate play skills
- Reduction and replacement of maladaptive behavior
- Increase food repertoires and age appropriate eating skills
- Toilet training
- Desensitization of sounds, textures, tastes or activities that are aversive to a child with ASD
- Social skills training (1:1, small groups, and larger groups)
How can parents get their child the help they need to learn, grow and thrive if they suspect ASD?
When a parent suspects a child may have key indicators of ASD, a first step is to contact their primary care physician for a complete check up to rule out other medical concerns, and to explain all concerns and observations. Families may also contact pediatric psychologists, pediatric psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and family pediatricians for full diagnostic testing.
The gold standard of testing for ASD is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-3), paired with the Autism Diagnostic Interview- Revised (ADI-R), parent interviews and other scales to get a full picture of strengths and deficits. If a diagnosis is received, the parent will need the full medical diagnostic report, along with a referral to ABA to bring to a local ABA provider to begin the process toward beginning services.
American Psychiatric Association (2011). DSM-5 (Retrieved 16.04.13),
Centers for Disease Control (2014). Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00
Autism Spectrum Disorder (Retrieved 30.11.14),