Last week was the first of a new weekly series I'm doing on my blog to raise awareness about Autism. I'm going to be covering a variety of topics related to Autism in very short doses. I would encourage you, even if you do not currently know someone affected by Autism, to read these posts. Awareness is desperately needed in order to find the cause and help children recover.

Today I'm going to talk about diagnosis. It is SO important to get kids diagnosed at an early age. Most of the treatments that are currently used to help children with Autism show the most significant improvements at an early age. There is possibility of improvement at older ages but there seems to be a "window" between the ages of birth to 5 years old where treatments are found to be the most effective.

There is currently no medical test for Autism. Diagnosis is based on behavioral observation and educational testing. The route to diagnosis for children with Autism is often as varied as the symptoms. Unfortunately pediatricians are generally not looking for signs of Autism and parents' concerns about developmental delays are often dismissed by doctors. So it is important that parents take matters into their own hands if they want to make sure their child gets diagnosed early and has a chance at early intervention treatment.

These are some red flags for parents to look for that may indicate that your child is at risk and should be screened:

-No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
-No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
-No babbling by 12 months
-No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
-No words by 16 months
-No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
-No response when the child's name is called by 10 months
-Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

If you are concerned your child may be at risk, here are three other more in-depth diagnostic tools you could look at:

Diagnostic Checklist Form E-2
Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT) Screening Tool
DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of Autism

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more on Autism next Thursday!

The above photos are of my sweet sister and her family taken earlier this year. Both of my nephews have Autism. Click here to see the full shoot!
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