Autism clues before age 3

January 30, 2012 9:49:23 AM PST
Autism is one of a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that appear in early childhood -- usually before age 3.

Though symptoms and severity vary, all autism disorders affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably combinations of factors that lead to autism. The number of children diagnosed with autism appears to be rising. It's not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting of autism, a real increase in the number of cases, or both. While there is no cure for autism, intensive, early treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children with the disorder. (,

    EARLY DETECTION: Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had. A person with an ASD might:
  • Not respond to their name by 12 months
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not play "pretend" games by 18 months
  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel (

LENAbaby: LENA stands for Language ENvironment Analysis. It is a system actively being used in research to help detect autism and other developmental disorders at an early age. It's a system designed to capture the amount of talk in your child's environment. Using a Digital Language Processor (DLP) and Language Environment Software, LENA quanti?es and analyzes conversations between you and your child. It also provides a percentile rank compared to both a nationally representative group of 314 families and to other LENA users. The two-ounce LENA DLP is placed a child's pocket.. At the end of the day, the DLP can be plugged into a computer to analyze the conversations and word count.

For More Information, Contact:

Jill Gilkerson, PhD Director of Child Language Research (303) 545-9696