Autism Signs: Autism May Be Detectable As Early As Four Months

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Think for a moment about the high cost to families of children with autism.  Not only the financial costs but the emotional costs as well.  With early detection and early diagnosis of autism comes early intervention.  For families this means more trips to doctors, therapists, and educational services.  It means having outsiders visiting their home three to five times per week.  Families with children diagnosed with autism are likely to have a lower income due to increased medical costs and a need for one parent to be constantly available for the child.  Teenagers with autism experience more bullying and harassment than their typically developing peers. Available services for adults with autism are inadequate at best. One question generally resonates from families who have a child affected with autism: What caused this?

Recently, in San Diego at the International Meeting for Autism Research, risk factors and potential causes of autism were presented.  Keep in mind though, that even with all of the available information and all of the research being conducted, one fact remains true.  The cause of autism has not been identified, and its causes are likely to be as unique and individualized as the children who are affected by it.

One outstanding piece of information which was presented at the meeting is that by us fMRI technology (functional magnetic resonance imaging) there are observable changes in the brain growth of a baby between 4-6 months of age.  This is long before there are any observable behavioral changes in the child’s development.  This abnormal brain growth is especially evident in relation to regressive autism.  This is a fantastic piece of information because it once AGAIN rules out the MMR vaccine given at 12 months old as the cause of autism.

Fortunately, diagnosis of autism are being made at earlier and earlier ages.  I say fortunately because earlier diagnosis leads to earlier intervention, which leads to better outcomes for the affected child.  Eric Courchesne, autism researcher, has discovered that from a very early age in children with autism the connection between the temporal lobe and limbic system is abnormal  In the frontal cortex of a child with autism there are twice as many cells as in typically developing children.  Other risk factors being explored by researchers is maternal risk factors that increase the risk of autism.   To conclude, researchers are in agreement that the exact causes of autism are still unknown; however, we are closer to understanding today than we’ve ever been.  Education and awareness are key to preventing families from falling victim to long disproved myths such as vaccines and cold, unloving mothers being the cause of autism in children.  Today the best thing families can do is be ware of autism signs and be proactive in seeking services if a diagnosis is made.

If you are concerned your child may be displaying signs of autism, please check our autism signs post for specific age groups:

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