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Autism (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

If an infant or toddler exhibits any unusual behaviors for a day or two after behaving completely normally, it probably means that he or she is coming down with a minor illness, doesn't feel well, or is tired or under some other form of stress. However, if the child has always had any of these characteristics, or the characteristic(s) continues over a period of time, a visit to the pediatrician or other health care provider is warranted. The average age for the diagnosis of autism is 4 to 6 years, although most parents suspected something was wrong by 18 months and voiced their concerns by age 2 years.

Some examples of behaviors that warrant seeking medical care include:

  • seems distant or oblivious to surroundings;
  • doesn't play or interact well with others;
  • is uncommunicative;
  • has problems speaking or understanding the speech of others;
  • has uncontrollable temper tantrums;
  • insists on sameness and routine;
  • engages in repetitive or compulsive actions.

Based on an understanding of potential early autism symptoms, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and experts recommend that babies or children be evaluated for autism who have not met the following developmental milestones:

  • Not babbled or cooed by age 1 year
  • Not gestured, pointed, or waved as an infant, by age 1 year
  • Not spoken a single word by age 16 months
  • Not spoken a 2-word phrase by age 2 years
  • Experiences any loss of language or social skills at any age

If even one of these statements is true of a child, parents should resist the temptation to "just wait and see." Problems of this type may signal some type of disability, even if it is not autism. Prompt diagnosis and early intervention are very important in improving the long-term outcomes for developmental disorders of all types, including autism.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/18/2014

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Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Autism »

Autism is a condition that manifests in early childhoodand is characterized by qualitative abnormalities in social interactions, marked aberrant communication skills, and restricted repetitive and stereotyped behaviors.

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