A.L.A.R.M. – An Autism Guide for Parents

Autism spectrum disorders are not rare. Many primary care pediatricians care for several autistic children. Your child’s pediatrician plays an important role in early recognition of autism spectrum disorders because they are usually the first point of contact for parents. Parents are now much more aware of the early signs of autism because of frequent coverage in the media. If your child demonstrates any of the published signs, please raise your concerns to your pediatric staff.

It is important that your pediatrician is able to recognize the signs and symptoms of autism and has a strategy for assessing them systematically. Pediatricians should be aware of local resources that can assist in making a definitive diagnosis of, and in managing, autism spectrum disorders. They should be familiar with developmental, educational, and community resources as well as medical sub-specialty clinics.

Some of the pre-speech deficits that often exist and, if detected, could facilitate earlier diagnosis include:

  • lack of appropriate gaze;
  • lack of warm, joyful expressions with gaze;
  • lack of the alternating to-and-fro pattern of vocalizations between infant and parent that usually occurs at approximately 6 months of age (i.e., infants with ASDs usually continue vocalizing without regard for the parent’s speech);
  • lack of recognition of mother’s (or father’s or consistent caregiver’s) voice;
  • disregard for vocalizations (i.e., lack of response to name), yet keen awareness for environmental sounds;
  • delayed onset of babbling past 9 months of age;
  • decreased or absent use of pre-speech gestures (waving, pointing, showing);
  • lack of expressions such as “oh oh” or “huh”;
  • lack of interest or response of any kind to neutral statements (e.g., “Oh no, it’s raining again!”)

If you are concerned your child may be autistic, here are some sources of additional information about autism spectrum disorders.

  • The “Autism A.L.A.R.M.“12: a flyer that highlights the prevalence of autism, the importance of screening and listening to parents’ concerns, and the urgency of making simultaneous referrals to specialists in ASDs and early intervention programs to promote improved outcomes.
  • “Is Your One-Year-Old Communicating With You?”13: a brochure that focuses on early identification of social communication deficits and behavior problems that may be associated with developmental disorders, primarily ASDs. This brochure is intended for distribution to all parents of infants at the 9- or 12-month well-child visit. It encourages parents to share any concerns they have about their infant’s language development and social skills with the pediatrician as early as possible.
  • “Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders”14: a 48-page introductory booklet for parents of children in whom an ASD has been diagnosed recently or is suspected strongly.
  • resource web site for concerned parents.

Please do not hesitate to call me at (904) 273-6533 or (904) 743-2100 if you have any questions. We love for your children to grow healthy!

Dr. O

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