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Recognizing early signs of autism

Posted at 12:45 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 15:21:09-04

You’ve most likely heard of autism spectrum disorder, and experts say the sooner the diagnosis, the better the treatment.

So as a parent, what signs should you watch out for?

Dr. Deborah Bilder, Pediatrician and Psychiatrist for Huntsman Mental Health Institute says, “Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability.”

And one that Dr. Bilder says can lead to a child or adult having difficult communicating, engaging, and makes managing change difficult.

“Events that happen every day that neurotypical individuals can manage, but for these individuals it’s just too much,” says Dr. Bilder.

Dr. Bilder says one of the earliest signs of autism is your child’s smile. “A social smile. So the mother smiles at the child or the dad and the child smiles back. Um, if that’s not happening at six months of age. That’s a concern.”

Experts from University of Utah Health highlight the following signs of early autism:

  • Missing milestones
  • Prolonged lack of speech development
  • Often won’t respond to their name
  • Lack of connection with others
  • Have trouble with change
  • Obsessive interests
  • Repetition of words and phrases
  • Sensitivity or insensitivity to sound
  • Intense emotions
  • No awareness of danger

Additional early signs of autism spectrum disorder can be found on the CDC website.

Dr. Donna Milavetz. Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says, “If, as a parent, you have any concerns, don’t wait. Don’t think oh I’m going to see what happens. Call your provider, call your pediatrician. Bring your child in. It’s better for us to know about things early, rather than later.”

Dr. Milavetz said she knows this is a lifelong diagnosis and can be scary, but early intervention is key to helping the individual and their family.

“We all have this developmental window in that preschool period where we’re expected to learn language and we’re expected to learn social interaction,” said Dr. Bilder. “That window is open, and we really want to get the very most out of that window. By getting these children into intervention services as soon as possible, you can really optimize their ability to need the least restrictive setting as possible in school, engage appropriately with others and be more independent.”