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Published on April 02, 2019

Recognize the Early Signs of Autism

Child Looking SadAutism is a neurodevelopment disorder characterized by a range of challenges with social interaction, communication (both verbal and nonverbal), and behavior. There are many forms of autism, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences, but are normally categorized on a scale of mild to severe based on how much support the individual needs.

If you or your pediatrician notice signs of autism between 18 and 24 months, they may recommend a screening known as the M-Chat (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers). The M-Chat is widely used as a first step in diagnosing autism, and consists of a series of yes or no questions about a child’s behavior. Many of the early signs that this checklist looks at involve joint attention:

  • not babbling or using words
  • not using gestures to communicate
  • not responding to their name.

In many children, loss of language is the major, initial impairment. However, other unusual behaviors may become apparent, such as spending hours lining up toys, showing interest in a very restricted range of topics, avoiding eye contact and having difficulty relating to other people.

Some forms of mild autism may not become apparent until the child is older, or may present as a consistent developmental delay. Parents are usually the first to recognize concerning changes in their child’s behavior; and this should always be brought up with the child’s pediatrician.

Dr. Stephanie Wolfe, a pediatric neurologist at Cone Health Child Neurology, discussed signs of autism on Fox 8 House Call.

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