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Autism Month: Creating A Better Understanding

Today, autism spectrum disorder is commonly viewed as a childhood condition, with public attention focused primarily on children and the significance of early detection and intervention.

What some don’t realize is that autism is a lifelong condition which requires necessary supports and treatments as people on the spectrum move through different phases of life.

For those living with autism, quality of life depends not only on the foundation provided in early childhood, but also continued supports that are specific to different needs as they progress through each phase of life.

Recognizing Signs of Autism in the Early Years

Recognizing abnormalities in a child’s cognitive and social development within their first few years of life is crucial to getting them the resources and support needed early on.

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that well-baby/child check-ups, particularly during 18-24 months also include developmental screening for autism spectrum disorders.

Infant & Toddler Years (The Autism Society)

Some developmental milestones parents should be cognizant of in the early years:

At 3 Months:

  • Starts developing a social smile
  • Raises head and chest when laying on stomach
  • Follows moving objects
  • Grasps and shakes hand toys
  • Smiles when you talk
  • Begins to babble
  • Begins to imitate some sounds
  • Turns head toward direction of sound 

At 1 Year:

  • Is shy or anxious with strangers
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Pretend plays
  • Pulls self-up to stand
  • Crawls forward on belly
  • Answers to name when called
  • Walks when holding onto furniture

At 2 Years:

  • Imitates behavior of others, especially adults and older children
  • Demonstrates increasing independence
  • Begins to sort by shapes and colors
  • Begins make-believe play
  • Can point to object or picture when it’s named
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Uses simple phrases (by 18-24 months)
  • Says several single words (by 18-24 months)

At 3 Years:

  • Imitates adults and playmates
  • Expresses affection openly
  • Understands concept of “mine” and “his/hers.”
  • Uses 4-5 word sentences
  • Can say name, age and sex
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals tricycle
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals and people

Resources during School Years

The school years can bring numerous challenges for a child with autism but they also embrace incredible opportunity for growth.

There are many treatment methods available to school-aged children with autism including:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Occupational Therapy
  • A range of supplemental therapies
  • Dietary regimes

The Autism Society’s online resource materials includes beneficial informational pamphlets for students and guides to school transitions, and more.

Keeping Your Loved Ones with Autism Safe at Any Age

Once of the biggest fears parents have of children with autism is that of wandering. Wandering in children with autism is very similar to wandering in seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior, also referred to as bolting, elopement, or fleeing. Some of the dangers associated with wandering include; drowning, traffic injuries, encounters with strangers, falls, and other injuries.

Wandering remains among the top causes of death with the autism population. MedicAlert’s Wandering Assistance Service helps those that go missing, including those with Autism.

MedicAlert Team Member