As a parent, watching your baby grow is an experience you’ll never forget. But while every child grows and learns at their own pace, missing certain milestones signals something wrong.
You can witness your baby’s growth and development as a parent or caretaker. You can tell if a baby is learning new skills and abilities by the small changes in how they act daily.
If you know what signs to watch out for, you may be able to spot early signs of autism or other developmental differences. This is because the first signs of autism in babies and toddlers aren’t unusual behaviors. They are rather a lack or delay in the development of a skill or ability that is expected to develop at a certain age.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most parents of autistic children notice these delays in the first year of life, and 80 to 90% notice developmental differences by the time the child is two years old.
These observations are necessary because they can help you quickly diagnose the child.
This blog post will reveal some signs of autism that parents need to watch out for in their babies and toddlers.
Related: 15 Gift Ideas For Kids With Autism
What Is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves developmental differences that affect how people talk, act, and interact with others. It is a complex disorder in the brain that affects development, affecting the child’s social skills, like playing, learning, and talking with others.
According to the CDC, 1 out of every 54 children has autism. The disorder affects people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds, although boys are more likely to be affected than girls. Autism symptoms can be anywhere on a scale from mild to severe.
Some conditions can make a child more likely to develop autism. Decades of research have shown that getting help early for autistic kids can make a big difference in how healthy they are as adults.
When autism treatments start early, both their nervous system and brain can change and adapt.
Signs of Autism in Babies and Toddlers
Autism does not change a baby’s appearance. However, the condition changes how babies talk and interact with their environment.
Autism is called a “spectrum” disorder because the signs, symptoms, and abilities vary from person to person. If you notice these differences in your child’s development, you should talk to your child’s doctor or another healthcare professional about them.
1. Refusing to make eye contact
Babies often start making eye contact with other people when they are young. By two months, babies can usually find faces and look people in the eye. Later, making eye contact becomes a way to meet new people and learn more about their surroundings.
Researchers have found that babies with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) start to make less eye contact when they are about two months old. The refusal to make eye contact can be a sign of autism.
2. Little gestures or pointing
Most babies learn to point and make faces before learning to talk. A gesture is one of the oldest means of communication.
Children with autism tend to point out and make gestures much less than children who are not autistic. Less pointing can sometimes be a sign that a child is having trouble learning to speak.
When their gaze doesn’t follow yours when you point at something, that’s a sign of a development difference. People sometimes call this skill “joint attention.” Children with autism tend to have less joint attention.
3. Little or no response when called by name.
Most babies know their names by the time they are six months old, especially when it’s coming from their mother.
Autistic babies show a difference in how they develop. By nine months, many babies that are autistic don’t know their names. Researchers have found that this is usually a pattern, not just a single case.
4. Fewer signs of emotion on the face
Facial expressions are nonverbal means of communication to show your emotions and thoughts.
There are a few studies on emotional expression in autistic infants and toddlers, but studies on school-aged children have shown that autistic children show less emotion on their faces than children who do not have autism.
That doesn’t mean autistic children feel less emotion, though. It just means that they show less of their feelings on their faces.
5. Delay in speech or language
Babies and toddlers start talking at different ages. But it becomes abnormal when it is delayed for a long time, or the speech is abnormal.
Research shows that at 12 months, autistic children can say and understand fewer words than children who are not autistic. Therefore, a pediatrician should be consulted if a child cannot say single words by 16 months or two phrases by age 2.
The National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders believe that language development could be “uneven,” with great language development in some areas and problems in others.
Autism may be present when a baby or toddler loses skills and abilities that are just starting to develop. It can also be very difficult for parents and other caregivers to observe.
Researchers don’t understand why this regression occurs. No childhood events, diseases, or medications are known to be linked.
Up to one-third of autistic children experience a loss of skill between when they are babies and when they start preschool. Almost all of the time, language skills are what is lost.
If your baby used to talk, make eye contact, gesture, and do other social things but stopped as a toddler, you should talk to your pediatrician about it.
Possible Causes of Autism
There is still no known cause of autism, but researchers and experts believe a mix of genetic and environmental factors causes it. Listed below are some factors that may lead to the development of ASD:
- Exposure to some environmental toxins like pollution from cars or pesticides
- Chromosomal issues like tuberous sclerosis or fragile X syndrome.
- Some drugs taken during pregnancy, like thalidomide and valproic acid, can cause congenital disabilities that can increase the risk of developing autism.
- Being born to older parents.
- Low birth weight.
- Oxygen loss at birth
- Mothers who are overweight, have diabetes or have certain immune disorders.
- Immune disorders, metabolic problems, and differences in brain connectivity
Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Children
There are some signs and symptoms of autism that show up when babies, toddlers, and preschoolers get older. These include:
- Repetitive actions, like flapping their hands or spinning,
- Showing strong interest in just a few topics.
- Lining up toys too much;
- Not being able to feel or understand how others feel.
- Stomach problems like constipation, diarrhea, gas, or stomach pain.
- Difficulty showing how they feel
- Strong emotional feelings when unplanned changes happen
- Repetition of words and phrases
- Complying with routines and schedules
Treatment Options for Autism
Some strategies may help children with autism learn new skills to help them get through their daily lives. Because autism has many symptoms, a multimodal approach is generally the best way to help.
These are some options that can help children with autism have a better life.
- Behavior management therapies.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Social skills training.
- Joint attention therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Nutrition therapy.
- Physical therapy.
- Speech therapy.
- Educational interventions.
Is autism anyone’s fault?
Having an autistic baby is no one’s fault. So there is no need for you as a parent to blame yourself for what you did or did not do. This is because parents of kids with autism often wonder if they did something wrong to cause their child’s autism.
If you’re taking care of an infant and you see signs of autism, you might question your choices or blame yourself for your child’s different development. When you talk to medical professionals about early diagnosis, you may also feel you have to make the right choice every time.
Parents of autistic kids often have these thoughts and feelings, but remember that no one is to blame.
To help you navigate and adjust, it may be helpful to do the following:
- Join support groups for parents with autistic babies.
- Look for more training on ASD, which can make you feel less stressed.
- Find out about ASD resources in your area.
- Find ways to deal with stress, such as mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and expressive writing.
- Work with a family therapist or counselor to figure out how you feel and learn how to deal with it.
Bottomline: Signs Of Autism In Babies and Toddlers
Now that you know some of the signs of autism in babies and toddlers, we hope that you can use these signs as a guide to help autistic children get help quickly.
If you see any of these differences in your child’s development, you should immediately talk to your child’s pediatrician. Children with autism are likely to have better health if diagnosed and treated early.
Although there is currently no “cure” for autism, several therapies can help your child learn new skills, feel less anxious, and live an overall healthy life.
As you keep an eye on your child’s growth and seek help when needed, don’t forget to take care of yourself with the same energy you care for your autistic child.
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