Does My Child or Baby Have Autism (Autistic)?
Autism is not “one” thing. In 2013 the American Psychiatric Association merged several distinct autism diagnoses into one, renaming it Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to better communicate the broad range of symptoms and levels of severity. ASD is a neurological-based disorder with social, communication, and behavioral symptoms ranging from very mild to severe.
It is broadly estimated that 1 in 59 children are affected by ASD conditions – that’s approximately 1.7% of children. But remember that many of those children experience only mild symptoms over the long term. ASD affects children of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups. It is, however, diagnosed four-to-five times more often in boys than girls. What is not fully understood is if there has been an increase in the rate of autism or if we are simply doing a better job of diagnosing and treating children with milder symptoms.
What Causes Autism or ASD?
Research is ongoing, but research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Evidence for a genetic link is strong with high correlations between ASD and other developmental, psychiatric, neurologic, chromosomal, and genetic diagnoses. There is also strong evidence of increased incidents of additional ASD diagnoses in siblings, among other family relationships.
Importantly, there is no known statistical or scientific relationship between normal, recommended child healthcare and therapeutic practices – including immunizations – and any ASD condition.
When Should My Child Be Checked for Autism / ASD?
The good news is that – even though there is currently no “cure” for ASD – there are effective therapies and treatments available that can mitigate symptoms and greatly improve outcomes. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the more effective the treatments. And in the vast majority of cases, symptoms appear before the age of 3. That’s why the AAP recommends that all children be screened for ASD during both normal 18-month and 24-month well-child checkups.
What Are the Symptoms or Early Signs of Autism?
There are several indicators that can suggest that a child has autism of ASD. The AAP has created a helpful list that we’ve linked to below.
Even though children normally develop at different rates, the AAP has provided some guidelines comparing the social development of a typical child with one who may have ASD.
At 12 Months
- A child with typical development will turn his head when he hears his name.
- A child with ASD might not turn to look, even after his name is repeated several times, but will respond to other sounds.
At 18 Months
- A child with simply delayed speech skills will point, gesture, or use facial expressions to
make up for his/her lack of talking.
- A child with ASD might make no attempt to compensate for delayed speech or might limit speech to parroting what is heard on TV or what she just heard.
At 24 Months
- A child with typical development brings a picture to show his/her mother and shares his/her joy from it with her.
- A child with ASD might bring his/her mother a bottle of bubbles to open, but he/she does not look at his mom’s face when doing so nor share in the pleasure of playing together.
Your pediatrician can help and provide more information. But the AAP recommends that parents “trust their instincts” – if you are concerned, talk to your child’s pediatrician.
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Sources and Additional Resources
Autism Initiatives by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
Autism Spectrum Disorder by HealthyChildren.org, a division of the AAP:
Autism Spectrum Disorder by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
What is Autism by Autism Speaks:
“What Are the Early Signs of Autism?” by HealthyChildren.org, a division of the AAP:
Autism Data and Statistics by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
These links will allow you access to printable office forms. Note these forms should not be emailed back to the office. If you prefer, you can fax these to us at 770-772-6099, or bring them with you on your next visit."
- Patient Information Sheet - Attention New Patients - This form is now done in the office on one of our iPads. Please come in 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment so we can get your child in our system and keep them on time for their first appointment with us.
- Consultation Form
- Medical Record Release
- Vanderbilt ADHD ADD Parent Form
- Vanderbilt ADHD ADD Teacher Form
Use these links to find more information about topics listed:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Diabetes
- Centers for Disease
- Children's Healthcare of
- Children and Adults with Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
- The Cord Blood
- Immunization Schedules from the
- US Dept of Health and Human Services
- Vaccine information from the CDC