Monday, November 10, 2008

Early signs of autism?

I have to start this post by saying that I personally don't know a lot about autism. I do know people who have children who have autism and I've read a lot about it. But, any information I write about is what I've gleaned from my research.

I do know that hearing that your child has autism can be devastating. In one way, it's reassuring to actually have a diagnosis for something that you knew was wrong but couldn't identify - but in another - you now have to deal with the diagnosis. Some children have mild autism and can function well in a "normal" environment, while others need much more care and guidance, and may not ever end up living as his or her peers. The spectrum is that wide.

It used to be said that autism was caused by the mother - she didn't pay enough attention to the child. I guess this reasoning came from the fact that the children usually do develop normally for the first year of life - at least, they seem to be developing normally. But, more and more research is beginning to find that maybe children with autism are showing signs of it well before it's noticed - and well before the vaccines that are often blamed are introduced.

There was a study published recently that described how infants looked at their caregivers. Normally, infants look directly into the eyes of their caregivers. This eye-to-eye contact is well known between mother and child. This looking into the eyes continues on as we grow and learn that this is what people want and it allows us to maintain a certain level of contact.

Interestingly, in the study, researchers found that the time that toddlers looked in the eyes of their caregiver could actually predict how social they were or if they had a social "disability." The less the child looked into the eyes, the higher the level of difficulty with interaction.

The same researchers worked on another study that examined what the children were looking at if not the caregivers' eyes. What they found was there was a greater likelihood that the child would focus on the mouth and its lip movements and sound.

And now, there is yet another study that is saying that there may be signs of autism as early as 12 months. In California, researchers have found that how a child plays with his or her toys may give clues into autism. The article, to by published in the journal Autism, found that children who were later found to have autism were those who played with toys that rotated or spun repetitively. They also would stare at toys, like rattles.

If these studies bear out what they have found, then this is yet another nail in the coffin of those who feel that autism is caused by vaccines. It is also something that may become an issue that should be on the checklist of well-baby checks.

No comments: