Raise Vegan September 2018 Raise Vegan (2) - Page 49

A utism Speaks defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as, “a range of conditions charac- terized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.” When your child is young and developing, it can often be hard to identify which be haviors are age-appropriate and which do not fall in line with the expected milestones of development. Knowing that the line between normal and concerning can be thin, what should parents truly be looking for and when? Children are often diagnosed with autism around two or three years old, however, it is possible to diagnose as early as one year old. When identified early enough, there are a few methods of intervention that can be put into place to facilitate and improve the child’s prog- nosis. As children pass the age of one, abnormal development can become more obvious. If a parent has any concern, it is strongly encouraged to get the child screened as soon as possible. A parent may notice one or many of these red flags: • After 6 months: no smiles or happy expressions • After 9 months: no reciprocated smiling, sounds, or facial expressions • By 12 months: no babbling • By 12 months: no gestures such as looking, pointing, waving, etc. • By 16 months: no words • By 24 months: no intentional two-word phrases • At any time: loss of previously demonstrated verbal or social skills If a parent is unsure whether or not their child’s behavior is cause for concern, there is a question- naire tool available to conduct an unofficial screening called the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers). This check- list can be found at https://www. autismspeaks.org/what-autism/ diagnosis/mchat and can help par- ents determine if they should seek professional help for a possible diagnosis. While an autism diagnosis can be scary, it is important to recognize that a proper diagnosis will help you and your child in the long run. Doctors and therapists will be able to give you the appropriate tools needed to best communicate with your child and to help them navigate the world more comfort- ably. There will be many things to learn, such as where your child falls on the spectrum and what their individual needs are, but there is a great deal of support readily available no matter what the prognosis. It’s Ok To Be Different RAISEVEGAN.COM Raise Vegan 49