Warning Signs in Infants
There are several things you can, and should do, on an ongoing basis. First, continuously monitor your infant's development. Autism involves a variety of developmental delays, so keeping a close eye on when— or if—your infant is hitting the key social, emotional, and cognitive milestones is an effective way to spot the problem early on. While developmental delays don't automatically point to autism, they may indicate a heightened risk. Second, take action if you're concerned. Every child develops at a different pace—so you don't need to panic if your child is a little late to talk or walk. When it comes to healthy development, there's a wide range of "normal." But if your infant is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or you suspect a problem, share your concerns with your child's doctor immediately. Don't wait! Third, Don't accept a wait-and-see approach. Many concerned parents are told, "Don't worry" or "Wait and see."
But waiting is the worst thing you can do. You risk losing valuable time at an age where your child has the best chance for improvement. Furthermore, whether the delay is caused by autism or some other factor, developmentally delayed kids are unlikely to simply "grow out" of their problems. In order to develop skills in an area of delay, your infant needs extra help and targeted treatment.
And finally, what you can and should do on a continuous basis is trust your instincts. Ideally, your child's doctor will take your concerns seriously and perform a thorough evaluation for autism or other developmental delays. But sometimes, even well-meaning doctors miss red flags or underestimate problems. Listen to your gut if it's telling you something is wrong and be persistent. Schedule a follow-up appointment with the doctor, seek a second opinion, or ask for a referral to a child development specialist.