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Hi I’m Dr. Danelle Fisher, Board Certified Pediatrician with www.WestchesterPeds.com and I’m here today for About.com to talk to you about early signs of autism. Autism is a disorder of language skills, social skills and behavior.  There is a wide variation in the expression of the disorder, so it has been termed Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.  Children with ASD may be verbal or non-verbal.  Some will have problems with eye contact and social interaction; they may have difficulty holding a conversation or understanding the emotions of other people.  Some will show repetitive behaviors, including hand-flapping, head-banging, or repetitive or even obsessive play with toys.  Affected children will have difficulty functioning normally in all settings, including at home and in school.Early signs of autism can be subtle or very obvious.  Screening begins with the parents; they should watch for slow development or regression in milestones.  Some children may start out speaking a few words, but then stop speaking or communicating over time.  Ask your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s development and if any further testing is warranted.  There are some general developmental signs that all children should have at certain ages. You should be concerned if: by 6 months of age there is no smiling; by 9 months of age there is no interaction with parents by sharing smiles, sounds or facial expressions; by 12 months of age if there is no responding to the name, no babbling, no pointing, no reaching, or no waving; by 16 months of age if there are no single words; by 24 months of age if there are no 2-word phrases. If you or your pediatrician has a concern, there are screening tests that should be performed. One of the most commonly used screening tools is the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers or the M-CHAT. This is routinely performed at 18 and 24 months of age at the pediatrician’s office.  It consists of 23 yes-or-no questions answered by the parent.   The score gives a Pass or Fail, with a Fail indicating the need for more thorough screening.  The M-CHAT is a screening test, so it is possible to have some kids who do not screen appropriately.  The goal of the M-CHAT is to identify children who need further evaluation. Children with autism are being diagnosed more often now than ever.  If your child is showing early signs of autism or if you have a concern, talk with your pediatrician.  Once a diagnosis is made, therapy can begin so that your child can reach his or her utmost potential.  Thanks for watching.  For more information visit us online at About.com.
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