Early Autism Warnings

Friday, October 8, 2010 - 10:19am

Experts say early diagnosis results in huge benefits

Azure Champlain says her infant son Jaxon never smiled.

He cried a lot and barely made eye contact with other people.

"It got really kind of depressing there for a little bit," she says. "I was blaming myself, like, 'What did I do wrong when I was pregnant?'"

When Jaxon turned 1-year-old, Champlain says his behavior became even more unusual.

He obsessively stared at lights, constantly shook his head back and forth and had his hand in his mouth at all times.

"It got to where he was doing all of these things at once and he was literally like spinning in circles, doing the hand to mouth, shaking his head and I didn't want to go out in public," she says.

Doctors struggled to find out what was wrong with Jaxon.

He underwent tests, MRIs and hearing exams.

No one could find anything physically wrong with him, until he saw a neurologist, who put all the signs and symptoms together.

Jaxon had autism.

"We want to identify children as early as possible," says Dr. Christine Caselles. "We know that elderly intervention is extremely important. The earlier we can start, often the better we can do."

Dr. Caselles is a psychologist.

She says there are four key symptoms that can help parents and doctors diagnose young children with autism.

"The first thing we look at is the course of development, sort of the progression of development. Any loss of skills is a red flag that something might be wrong," she says.

For example, children who start speaking, but then suddenly stop using words.

That shows a slowing of development.

Caselles says another autism, children who can't comprehend what people are saying.

"Their understanding of language, their ability to follow simple directions early on," she explains. "Their ability to respond to their name when their name is called. Do they look? Do they orient?"

A third symptom is unusual communication, Caselles says this can be exhibited by children who don't ask for things verbally.

Instead they might demonstrate what they want physically.

And last, Caselles says to watch for repetitive behavior.

"Behaviors like lining things up, flapping of hands, jumping up and down repetitively, doing repetitive things with toys," she says.

Jaxon has been working with therapists for a month now.

Therapists come to his home 10 hours a week to help teach him about language and communication.

His mother says she's already seen big changes in her son.

Doctors and therapists say if you have any concerns about your child's health, physically or mentally, don't wait.

It can't hurt to have them seeing someone sooner rather than later.

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