April is Autism Awareness Month

Published 9:44 am Saturday, April 6, 2019

By Sheri Willrodt

Director of Special Services

The 12th annual World Autism Awareness Day was April 2, and hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world will sport light blue in recognition of people living with autism. In addition, autism-friendly events and educational activities will take place all month to increase understanding and acceptance and foster worldwide support.

Email newsletter signup

One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching. 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. Additionally, not all children with autism show all the signs, and many children who don’t have autism still 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

In 2018, the CDC determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.

Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often. Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, please contact the Help Me Grow Facilitator at www.helpmegrowmn.org; 1-866-693-GROW (4769) or the Austin Community Learning Center at 507-460-1705.