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What Are the Early Signs of Autism in Babies?

A new study confirms that ASD can be detected early. Here are four things you can look for in your one-year-old and other signs at older ages.




Some of the top early signs of autism in young children.

Is it possible to tell if a baby has autism? Researchers said this week that they have confirmed that Autism Spectrum Disorder can be detected as young as 14 months old.

The study says parents can detect signs as soon as the child's first birthday, which allows for early intervention and improved chances of treatment.

Signs to look for

Here's what to look for at 12 months:

  • No babbling
  • No pointing or gesturing
  • No interaction with others
  • Doesn't respond to his name

Other signs in the early years:

  • Doesn't try to draw your attention to an object by 14 months
  • No single words by 16 months
  • No pretend play by 18 months
  • No two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Loss of language skills they had before
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over
  • Unusual reactions to sounds, textures, smells or tastes
  • Struggles with a task rather than look for help
  • Won't follow your gaze to see what you are looking at
  • Repeatedly drops or spins a toy instead of how it is designed to be used

Early intervention is key

Parents who see these signs can seek a diagnosis and early intervention

"Once a toddler is identified as ASD, there is an extremely low chance that he or she will test within typical levels at age three or four," says study lead author Karen Pierce, PhD, professor of neurosciences and co-director of the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence. "So it's imperative that we use every effective tool as early as we can to begin treating diagnosed children to the benefit of them and their families over the long-term."

While other studies have said autism can be detected as young as a year old, most cases are still not detected until three or four, even though there is a belief earlier treatment can have more impact.

Connections in the part of the brain that controls certain social behaviors doubles between birth and two years old. 

"It's conceivable that outcomes for children with autism could be improved if treatment occurred during this period of rapid brain growth, rather than after, which is more commonly the case," says Pierce.

Similar comments came out of a recent CDC study that found autism rates in New Jersey increased by 43 percent. 

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