At present, autism can’t be reliably diagnosed until around 2 years of age. However, parents often notice symptoms before then. In fact, analysis of videotapes from children’s first-birthday parties shows that signs of autism are already present for many children at that age, even then parents don’t become concerned until months or years later. In most medical conditions, the underlying processes are triggered before their signs and symptoms become obvious. Consider arthritis. The joints are breaking down and inflammation is setting in years before the aches and pains appear. In dyslexia (reading disability), the symptoms aren’t obvious until a child starts learning how to read. But the symptoms are rooted in brain differences that are present much earlier in development. A similar chain of events occurs in autism. We know that toxic exposures during pregnancy and complications associated with delivery can disrupt brain processes before birth and shortly afterwards. Mutations in the genes associated with autism can affect how the brain develops and functions, starting well before birth. Even though the outward symptoms of autism may not be apparent immediately after birth, the underlying brain differences are accumulating. Sometimes the brain can compensate to make up for the disrupted processes. Eventually though, if the disruption was sufficiently severe, the compensatory processes are no longer enough, and symptoms emerge. This may likewise explain many cases of autistic regression, in which a young child seems to be developing normally, only to lose abilities, or regress, into autism. Perhaps the initial disruption in brain development continued worsening. Or perhaps the compensatory processes couldn’t keep up. Given how complex the brain is, it can be very difficult to correct differences in brain development and function that start so early in life. SIGNS OF AUTISM-EARLY (Autism Speaks) What are the signs of autism? The timing and severity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, symptoms become obvious as late as age 2 or 3. Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial. The following "red flags" may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation: By 6 months Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions. Limited or no eye contact. By 9 months Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions By 12 months Little or no babbling Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving Little or no response to name. By 16 months Very few or no words. By 24 months Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) At any age Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills Avoidance of eye contact Persistent preference for solitude Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings Delayed language development Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia) Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings Restricted interests Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.) Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
Please Note: this section is currently being revised Sudden Onset? Neither Older Children Nor Adults Can Develop Autism To begin with, by definition, older children, teens, and adults do not develop autism. In fact, in order to qualify for an actual autism spectrum diagnosis, you must have symptoms that appear during early childhood (that is, before age three). Thus, if you know an adult or older child who has suddenly, out of the blue, developed behavioral or social communication issues, you are not seeing someone who has acquired autism. People who appear to suddenly behave in an "autistic" man manner may have developed any one of a number of other mental health issues, some of which do most commonly appear in early adulthood. NOTE: autism-like behaviors may result from a wide range of disorders from social phobia to generalized anxiety to obsessive compulsive disorder. These are serious disorders that have a significant impact on an individuals' ability to function effectively, make or keep friends, or hold a job, and they should be treated. But they are not autism. Onset Time (from Autism speaks) Is it possible that autism starts even earlier (before birth)? Research tells us “yes.” “When does autism start?” is one of the most profound questions we face in our field.
AUTISM: Onset and Progression
_________________________________________ Klaas Tuinman M.A. Life Self-Empowerment Facilitation at Dawn Cove Abbey Comments and Questions are welcomed