By Roy Q. Sanders, M.D., Medical Director, Marcus Autism Center
New data published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates autism now affects 1 in 50 children. This sharp increase from 1 in 88 a year ago now means about seven children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are born every day in Georgia.
Despite autism affecting so many children, it is widely misunderstood—or in some cases completely unknown. To bring light to this mysterious condition and give an opportunity for the community to be educated about autism and its issues, April is designated as Autism Awareness Month.
Autism affects children in a variety of ways, from a lack of communication and social skills to behavioral issues that can resemble attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
While we continue to study ASD at Marcus Autism Center, one thing has been proven by research: Early intervention can make a difference in the long-term outcomes of children. The earlier a child is diagnosed with ASD, the more skills he can gain. The child’s brain is more malleable and he has a greater ability to engage, interact and learn than when he is older. If a child does not get that foundation at a young age, it becomes more difficult later in life.
Although the average age of diagnosis is between 4 and 5 years, for many children a diagnosis can be made by 24 months. As a new parent, you can help your pediatrician to be on the lookout for early signs that your child might have an ASD:
- Compare your child’s stage of development to milestones at various ages, including:
- Smiling by 2 months
- Responding to own name by 6 months
- Playing “Peek-a-boo” by 1 year
- Look for red flags, which include:
- Delayed language skills
- Avoiding eye contact
- Getting upset by minor changes
If you have a concern about your child’s development or believe your child may have an ASD, don’t hesitate to bring it up to your pediatrician.