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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2011 Issues

Does my child have autism?


HT-Nov2011-Autism, Mom and SonSeeing your baby’s first social smile is one of the joys of early parenthood. But what if your baby hasn’t reached that critical developmental milestone by six months? Should you be worried that your child has autism?

A lack of smiling by itself doesn’t mean your child has autism, says Pantea Sharifi-Hannauer, M.D., a pediatric neurologist, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, who specializes in autism and epilepsy. But if you notice that your baby also isn’t babbling, cooing, making eye contact or responding to his name by 12 months, you should speak to your pediatrician about getting an evaluation, she says.

“Moms know when there’s something off with their baby,” Dr. Sharifi-Hannauer says. “One thing that studies have shown repeatedly is that primary doctors need to take mothers’ concerns more seriously.”

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD, is not a single disease. Instead, it refers to a group of developmental disabilities that includes a wide range of language deficits as well as emotional and social delays. About 1 in 110 children are diagnosed with ASD every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boys are four times as likely as girls to have autism. Researchers believe there may be many causes for the disease, including several genetic mutations. “You can have high functioning and low functioning autism. And many of these kids are very smart with really high IQs,” says Dr. Sharifi-Hannauer.

Can autism be cured? Autism cannot be cured, but it can be treated—and the earlier the better. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that anyone with autism or even suspected autism should begin receiving behavioral, speech and occupational therapy as early as possible—typically starting at 18 months. Although the cost of early intervention therapies can be prohibitively expensive, a new California law requires health insurance companies to start providing proven behavioral treatment therapies to people with autism beginning July 2012.

Early Intervention

If you suspect your child is not developing normally, speak to your pediatrician about your concerns or schedule an appointment with a pediatric neurologist. “The sooner you start, the better the prognosis,” says Dr. Sharifi-Hannauer.

Red Flags for Autism

  • Doesn’t respond to name
  • Poor eye contact
  • Doesn’t smile
  • Doesn’t play with toys
  • Doesn’t engage
  • Delayed language
  • Delayed social skills

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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