When it comes to autism, we’ve all been rocked by the recent CDC data that found ongoing increases in the number of children diagnosed with autism annually; it’s estimated that 1 in 88 children has autism in the US. The rates are unfortunately higher for boys. The number is unsettling to say the least, particularly as the cause of autism is multifactorial and not entirely understood. Although we know genetics and family history plays a role, we don’t know what causes the majority of autism.

Read more about the science of autism from Autism Science Foundation.

We do know one thing: research proves the earlier you intervene to get a child additional services, the better their behavior, the better their outcome, and the better their chances for improved communication. You don’t need a diagnosis to access services for your child.

When you worry and can’t find resources online that reassure you, it’s time to check with your child’s clinician. That’s the point of a real partnership and a true pediatric home. Fight to find one if you don’t already have one. Fight to improve yours if it’s imperfect. The feedback I receive from families in my clinic allows me more leverage to make change. We’re all responsible for improved health communication…

Signs of Autism In Infants & Toddlers:

There is not one specific behavior, test, or milestone that diagnoses autism. More than any one behavior,

  • You should observe your infant demonstrating curiosity.
  • You should observe your baby expressing joy nearly every day after 4 months of age. Your child should smile when they are 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old and thereafter.
  • Your child should show you they know their name by 1 year of age.
  • You should see that your child tries to communicate thoughts more effectively with each month that unfolds during infancy and toddlerhood.

Here’s a list of specific Autism Warning Signs

If you’re concerned your child isn’t meeting development milestones you expect or read about, trust your instinct. If your child is losing milestones, see the pediatrician immediately. You don’t need a diagnosis to access services for your child. If you have any concerns about development, I would also recommend you talk with your child’s clinician to have their vision and hearing formally screened.

The Autism Blog here at Seattle Children’s is written by specialists in the field of development and communication. Here’s more from them:

  • Sensitivity & Terms We Use to Describe Autism Great blog post from a provider and parent of a child with autism.
  • Why The Sharp Rise in Autism?  The blog post examines classification changes for autism, mis-classification, and possible reasons for rising numbers.
  • Autism Rate Change to 1 in 88 [VIDEO]
  • DSM-5 And Autism Part I and Part II The blog posts discuss recent changes to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual that define what constitutes a diagnosis of autism. Read this CNN piece as well.