Knowing the Early Warning Signs of Autism

Autism has grown into a common diagnosis in children in this country.    It's estimated that about one in 150 children appear on what's known as the Autism Spectrum.  

Some doctors say the earlier you treat the syndrome, the better the outcome for the child.  That’s something a West Hartford mother found to be true.  

"He's really come so far, almost more than we could have imagined," said Noreen Simmons.

She first started noticing something was not quite right with her son Weller, when he was just a baby.

"He wasn't answering to his name.  His language was not developing normally.  He was not meeting his developmental milestones like crawling on time, sitting up on time," she said.

Quite common symptoms, says CCMC Developmental Pediatrician, Ann Milanese.

"For some children, symptoms are evident in the first year of life,” said Dr. Milanese.

She says symptoms as an infant include: no smiles after six months and an absence of babbling by twelve months.

But for some children the warning signs come later.

"As children move into the second year of life, we look for more pointing and we also look for the emergence of a few first words.  By about sixteen months of age, children should have a few words and if they don't this is another possible sign that may indicate autism," she said.

However, these symptoms can also be a sign of a hearing problem.  So it's important to first rule that out.

Weller was finally diagnosed with Autism when he was two and half years old.

"You can kind of be stunned in the beginning and then you just need to take action and do something about it," said his mom, Noreen.

They turned to the state’s birth to three program.  It’s a federally mandated, state run program that offers a variety of services to families for free or little cost.

"Birth to three has Autism specialized programs now as of about a year ago," said Dr. Milanese.

She urges parents to get treatment as soon as possible.  "I believe the earlier it's diagnosed the better the child is going to do."

Weller is now seven.  He’s in second grade and doing well.

"He's a pretty happy kid.  He has good speech and language skills now."

For more early signs of autism:

This year’s Walk Now for Autism is Sunday, June 9 at Walnut Hill Park in New Britain.

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