Autism is developmental disability. It is a condition in which a person's ability to socialize and connect with others is impaired. An autistic person has difficulty with language, social interaction, communication and may have a restricted interests and repetitive behaviours.
The signs of autism can be picked up very early, even by the age of 9 months. Sometimes parents overlook delays because of reassurances from relatives. For example, they are worried that their child is close to 1.5 years and hardly says any words. They might get responses like, "don't worry, your cousin didn't speak till he was 2 and now look he's doing fine."
Or a mother might feel that her baby is no trouble at all because the baby plays by herself for hours. However, if we look at normal development, babies are very interactive, even the shy and quiet ones. So a baby who keeps to herself might be convenient, but may also indicate a problem in development.
The most important thing is to be aware of the signs of autism and catch them early. The earlier it is detected the more successful the interventions will be.
Here are some red flags to note
1. Your child does not make eye contact with you during daily activities like dressing, changing nappies or eating.
2. Your child does not smile back at you by 6 months of age.
3. Your child does not babble sounds like goo, gaa, maa, daa by 12 months.
4. When you point to something across the room, your child does not follow your point by 12 months.
5. Your child does not point to things to ask you for them by 12 months.
6. Your child does not use common gestures like waving goodbye or putting arms out to ask to be picked up by 12 months.
7. Your child does not say any words by 16 months.
8. Your child does not say any two-word phrases by the age of 2. For example, dada go.
9. Does not understand simple instructions like give me the dolly, put the block here, etc.
10. If you feel your child does not interact with you in a back and forth manner, such as pushing a ball back and forth with you, or playing with items along with you.
11. Plays with very few things, for example, plays only with cars or gets stuck doing one thing like pressing a button on and off on a toy.
12. Your child does not respond when his/her name is called.
13. Has no interest in other children.
If you observe any of these about your child and feel that something might be wrong, take an appointment with your paediatrician and share your concerns. The doctor will do a screening for autism and may refer your child for further therapy.