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Autism Check-up

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

While at your next routine well-baby visit, be sure to ask your pediatrician to screen your baby for developmental problems such as autism. Until recently, autism and related maladies, such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder, were not easily diagnosable until late preschool age or after. A recent study, chaired by Dr. Pauline Filipek of the University of California?Irvine and published in Neurology magazine, recommended guidelines that list specific warning signs to help clinicians make earlier assessments. The guidelines have been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Filipek says that often times autism is not diagnosed for years after signs appear and that many children show clear signs of problems at about 12 months; many have exhibited subtle symptoms months earlier. Early identification of children with autism and intensive, early intervention during the toddler and preschool years improves the outcome for most afflicted children. The organizations call for continuing developmental surveillance of babies starting in infancy and further evaluation when a child fails to meet developmental milestones.

Autism is a broad spectrum of disorders that ranges from mild to severe and affects thought, perception, and attention. The Autism Research Institute states that if an infant does not cuddle, make eye contact, or respond to affection and touching, or has abnormal responses to a combination of senses?such as hearing, balance, smell, taste, and reaction to pain?parents should be seriously concerned and seek testing. Other areas of deficit or difficulty include stereotypical repetitive behaviors or interests such as repeated rocking back and forth or obsessively turning the pages of a book.

Studies have found that about 25 percent of children in any primary-care medical practice show evidence of developmental problems, but fewer than 30 percent of primary-care providers do standard screening tests during well-child visits.

?Jennifer Mangan

This chart is published by the Autism Research Institute and notes average progress in babies. It's important to note that the vast majority of children who do not meet these milestones still end up with normal language skills.


Social smile

0-2 months


0-3 months

Turns toward mother or father's voice

4 months

Razzing sound

5 months

Recognizes mama and dada

6-9 months

Says first words

12 months

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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