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International Autism Awareness Day 2024: Know the signs of autism and how to act early

International Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2. It is commonly is commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If the following symptoms are present, ASD might be considered; nonetheless, a qualified doctor should confirm the diagnosis.

International Autism Awareness Day 2024: Know the signs of autism and how to act early RBA
First Published Apr 2, 2024, 7:15 AM IST

April 2nd is observed as International Autism Awareness Day. Autism is a disorder of the developing brain that typically affects toddlers between 1 and 3 years old. It affects the development of speech, communication, social interactions, and behaviours in young children. It is usually referred to as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD can be suspected if the following symptoms are present, but a trained doctor should confirm the diagnosis.

  1. Not responding to name calls by 12 months
  2. Not babbling by 12 months
  3. Not pointing with own index finger by 12 to 14 months
  4. Speech delay
  5. Not saying ‘mama’, ‘papa’, or other meaningful words by 16 months
  6. Learns alphabets, numbers, and colors but does not use words to communicate or request 
  7. Poor eye contact
  8. Any kind of repetitive speech or play (spinning objects or lining up toys, bottles, or other objects) or movement (flapping hands, spinning, or toe walking)
  9. Not interested in peer interactions
  10. Intolerance to some sounds, putting toys or other objects in the mouth, sensitivity to touch, textures, or smells.

The most typical symptom of autism is speech delay. Parents of all children with speech delay should first make sure that the child's hearing is normal. While all children with speech delay do not have autism, it’s better to have an evaluation of the child with a Developmental Pediatrician if a child has speech delay. 

It’s unnecessary to wait 2 years to seek evaluations, as many parents do. Developmental Paediatricians can evaluate babies, toddlers, and preschool children using standardised clinical tools and by clinical observations and guide parents correctly. 

Some children are at higher risk of ASD include:

  • Babies born preterm, low birth weight, or with complications during or after birth 
  • Children with a sibling diagnosed with Autism
  • Some genetic disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, Down Syndrome, and Tuberous sclerosis
  • Being born to older parents.

Such babies should be regularly screened for developmental delays.

Early recognition of red flag signs is vital so interventions can be initiated early. Research has shown that early intervention is important to reduce symptoms of Autism and improve overall functioning in affected children. 

Therefore, we have to ‘Know the signs and Act Early’ in Autism. If in doubt of a child’s developmental milestones, speech, or communication, consult Developmental Pediatricians during the first few years of rapid brain development, which is a window of opportunity to identify and correct any delays. 

-Dr. Chitra Sankar, Consultant - Developmental Pediatrics, Manipal Hospital Old Airport Road

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