How to Recognize Early Signs of Autism in Babies

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Autism is a brain disorder that causes problems with a child's behaviour, communication and socialisation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism disorders are present before age 3, there is no known cure, and early diagnosis is key; if your child is diagnosed before he turns 2, intervention activities and other programs can improve his condition and reverse some symptoms. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that no two children with autism have identical symptoms. Be aware of what to look for, and you could improve your child's chances of having a normal life.

Check your baby for abnormal muscle tone. According to a study published in Health Day News, over half of babies later diagnosed with autism had exceptionally limp or stiff arm muscles compared to babies without autism.

Observe the way your baby reacts to visual stimulation. A 2010 study reported in Health Day News notes that 4-month-old infants who were later found to have autism preferred to look at a monitor with rapidly flashing lights rather than a less-stimulating view.

Note how often your baby makes eye contact with you. An infant's favourite view is often another human face but, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies with autism generally avoid holding eye contact with others or make very limited eye contact. Your child should enjoy looking into your eyes and react to your smile.

Hold your baby. An infant who arches her back and tries to escape, rather than cuddle with her parents, could have early symptoms of autism.

Watch your baby's motion. Moving arms, hands and feet in a repetitive way, such as bumping his head rhythmically or swaying from side to side, could be cause for concern.

Speak to your baby and test his communication skills. Babies with autism often don't say single words by 15 months of age, and don't use short phrases by 2 years old. They may also seem completely disinterested in learning communication skills, or you may notice regression of language milestones between 1 and 2 years old.

Notice whether your child responds when you say her name. A baby with autism won't respond, yet will react to the sound of clapping hands or a door closing.

Observe your child in environments filled with various smells, sounds, textures and other stimuli. Oversensitivity or no sensitivity to these conditions could indicate autism.

Watch your child at play. A 1-year-old baby with autism may be more interested in parts of a toy than the whole thing, such as playing with the wheel on a toy car. He may also be obsessed with the same activities over and over, such as driving the car into a wall, instead of driving it up the side and across the seats of a couch.