Since early identification of children with autism leads to early intervention and a more promising outcome, researchers and professionals are working to identify key behaviors that lead to a diagnosis. The following is a summary of “Early Signs of Autism” in Advance Magazine:
Speech Pathologist Elizabeth Crais, PhD, CCC-SLP and her colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are using retrospective video analysis to look at home videos of children identified with autism before their diagnosis—as early as 9, 12 and 18 months of age.
Some of the behaviors they are looking at are:
· Stereotypical and repetitive behaviors which may be due to a lesser ability to engage in their social world.
· Sensory seeking behaviors such as pushing against something with their body, seeking the sensory input
· Delayed gesture development. Since gestures precede and accompany the onset of verbal language, they should be present as a child begins to point, show or give an object to make his needs known. Much has been written recently about the importance of gestures in the development of language. According to an interview with Advance Magazine, Dr. Crais said, “gestures, or lack of them, in the 9 to 12 month range are highly predictive of later language skills at ages 3 and 4.”
· Reduced joint attention behaviors—behaviors used when a child wants to direct another’s attention to something. This might be when a child brings a toy to you and looks up at you for a response, or points to a balloon that she wants.
· Difficulty with functional and creative play. Since children with autism have difficulty picking up behaviors from peers, so they don’t learn how to use toys and take them to the next level of pretend and creativity.
As a professional working with children on the autism spectrum, I am thankful to the parents who are sharing their home videos and my colleagues who are analyzing them so we can identify children earlier and hopefully help them learn these skills earlier to be successful.