As a parent, you want the best for your children. Early development is a pivotal part of who they’ll be in the future, especially within the first few years of their lives.
With autism cases on the rise, the best way to assist your child is to get a diagnosis. The problem is, most babies can’t be accurately diagnosed until they’re three years old. Typically, infants show signs before being diagnosed, meaning that there are steps to lower the symptoms before they drastically affect your baby’s development later on.
Luckily, a recent study proved that early intervention to autism spectrum disorder can improve your little one’s ability to adapt and learn social skills at an earlier age. Here’s an in-depth guide to autism spectrum disorder, the study and the progress researchers have made so far.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is defined as a neurological condition that interferes with the sufferer’s ability to effectively behave, communicate and thrive in social interactions. Children who are diagnosed with ASD deal with this disorder for the duration of their lives.
As previously mentioned, symptoms can appear within the first 12 months of life. There are little to no physical attributes that alerts parents of this condition. However, many parents begin to inquire when they notice their baby isn’t hitting certain milestones or developing at a noticeably slower rate than other babies their age. In contrast, some babies evolve normally and at a certain point their development abruptly ceases.
Common autism-related symptoms include:
- The inability to make or keep eye contact
- Unresponsive to parents calling their name at nine months
- Lack of facial expressions (anger, happiness, etc.) by nine months
- Uninterested in interactive games
- Doesn’t enjoy showing you their favorite toys or objects by 15 months
- Can’t identify when you or others are sad by 24 months
- Lack of interest in pretend play
- Doesn’t practice nonverbal cues like waving goodbye
In some cases, there are repetitive behaviors that contribute to a positive ASD diagnosis like:
- Seemingly obsessed with certain toys or objects
- Visibly upset by minor changes to routine
- Overreaction to sensory details like a specific smell or taste
- Sporadic rocking, hand flapping and spinning
These symptoms are common and take time to become visible depending on their level of development. Fortunately, a study published by JAMA Pediatrics helped give parents with autistic symptoms tools to aid their development.
What JAMA Pediatrics Research Study Shows
Recently, an Australian study emerged detailing how there are behaviors parents can use towards their child with ASD that can help them develop at a faster rate. In some cases, the number of diagnoses decreased in comparison to parents who used traditional ASD assistance.
The study took place in facilities in Melbourne and Perth in June of 2016. 171 babies were assessed for their ability to participate in the study. Of those, 104 infants were randomly split into two groups.
The parents of the intervention group were taught behaviors like attempting eye contact, even when the infant remained unresponsive. They also played sensitive developmental games with their little ones. These repetitive activities led to toddlers with ASD symptoms.
Once the intervention randomization study ceased, both sets of infants were monitored for the first three years of their lives. According to the findings, babies who were treated with the randomization were three times less likely to be diagnosed with autism. The ones who did receive an ASD diagnosis had fewer symptoms than those of the other group.
Since healthcare professionals typically wait until three years old to accurately diagnose children with ASD, the developments in this study have restored hope in parents who notice their children are socially progressing at a slower pace. Simple gestures like attempting eye contact can help babies who may be on the spectrum.
ASD-related healthcare is continuously evolving, which is great for parents raising autistic children. While this research is relatively new, it shows that intervention at an early age makes a big difference in whether or not they receive a diagnosis. If your child still receives an autism diagnosis, taking the initiative and practicing the previously mentioned skills will help their future social interaction skills.