Symptoms of autism vary greatly depending on the exact kind of illness the baby is suffering from. The signs also show up at different stages of the growing process. Most problems show up in spheres of verbal and non-verbal communication, in trying to relate to people and objects, and in the process of thinking and behaving flexibly.
Some common symptoms of autism in a baby are:
- Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed)
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at
- Doesn’t respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
- Doesn’t follow objects visually
- Doesn’t point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out
- Doesn’t make noises to get your attention
- Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling
- Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions
- Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
- Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
- Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests
- Doesn’t crawl at age she is normally supposed to
- Doesn’t try to stand when supported
- Doesn’t speak more than 15 words or use two-word sentences
As your baby grows up, he may show more signs of social difficulties, speech and language problems, non-verbal communication challenges, behavioural inflexibility, and some self-stimulatory behaviour like hand-flapping, spinning in a circle, head banging, staring at lights without blinking, lining up toys repeatedly, repeating words or noises, tapping ears constantly etcetera.
Although autism is known to be a genetic disorder, it is also known to be triggered by environmental factors. Conditions of babies born with a genetic vulnerability to autism are often made worse by triggers in the environment, while in the womb or after delivery, making him more susceptible to developmental delays.
Some prenatal factors known to contribute towards autism are:
- Intake of antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months
- Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly due to lack of folic acid intake
- The age of the mother (children born to older fathers also have a higher risk of autism)
- Complications at or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight and neonatal anaemia
- Maternal infections during pregnancy
- Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, while pregnant
Although one does not have a say in the kind of genes the baby inherits, still ensuring that the newborn grows up in a healthy and wholesome environment should be a prerequisite to keep any kind of developmental disorders at bay.
It is a myth that vaccines cause autism. Rather, timely vaccination is a must to keep your baby healthy. If you sense that your baby is showing potential signs of autism, arrange for an autism screening with a child developmental specialist or with a paediatrician. Meanwhile, start investing more time and effort in your baby in a bid to strengthen the chemistry and bond that you share with your child. This will go a long way in making your infant less helpless and maybe more attached to the people and surroundings.
The diagnostic process for autism is tricky and can sometimes take a while. Also, the further you delay your baby’s check-up, more is the risk of future complications.