Watch Children's Behavior For Clues To Autism

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
Watch Children's Behavior For Clues To Autism
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Watching their son David during gatherings of their new parents group alerted first-time mom and dad Kim and Steve Collins that something just wasn't right.

"After the children turned age 1, we noticed David had repetitive behavior such as open(ing) and closing doors as well as lying on a floor and watching wheels on a truck or car roll over and over," Kim Collins wrote to the program. "Watching all the children play during the times we were together raised a red flag that we needed to talk to our pediatrician."

The Collins, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., had noticed David was delayed in developmental milestones such as rolling over and crawling, but it was the repetitive behavior that led them to seek help. Beaumont pediatrician John Dorsey, M.D. - who had been Kim Collins' pediatrician when she was younger - helped the family figure out what was causing David's behavior and worked with other therapists to diagnose David on the spectrum of autism disorders.

As a result of being diagnosed so young, David, 5, has already had years of coaching, therapy and help. He's been in a special education preschool; has had speech and language therapy to help him develop his abilities and better express himself through language; and has been enrolled in social skills classes. David will start kindergarten in the fall with the help of an academic resource program.

His parents describe David as very happy and full of life. He enjoys music, basketball and swimming and likes to help his dad prune the bushes in their yard. The Collins feel hopeful and are very optimistic about their son's future.

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"One of the unique benefits of being in a group like Beaumont's Parenting Program groups is that because the children are so close in age you're able to see your child with his peers on a regular basis," says Lori Warner, Ph.D., director of Beaumont Children's Hospital's HOPE Center for autism treatment.

Warner said the Collins were fortunate to be able to get help for their son at such an early age.

"Early intervention is crucial," Warner says. "All the research points to the necessity of diagnosing as early as possible and beginning intense evidence-based intervention."

She offers the early warning signs that may tell parents it's time to seek a professional opinion:

* Delayed language milestones: Babies should be babbling by 10-11 months and using words or "word approximations" (like "ook" for "book" or "uice" for "juice") by 15 months.

* Lack of interaction with other children or parents by 1 year (e.g., making eye contact, mimicking gestures like clapping or waving bye-bye). "Kids are naturally so interested in each other," Warner says.

* Absence of orienting to something you're pointing to or using pointing to get your attention by 18 months. Absence of pretend play such as talking on the phone, stirring a pot or hugging a doll.

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