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Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Why Your Child's Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

The idea of an autism diagnosis for your child frightens many parents. However, that diagnosis provides the first step in your child’s journey to grow and learn to function in a world full of neurotypical people. Receiving a diagnosis and information on the next steps can actually relieve a parent’s anxiety over autism. Your child’s pediatrician is the first step in getting an autism diagnosis.

Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Today, we have more information about autism than ever before. Children can receive a diagnosis at a very young age–between 18 and 24 months. But, where do you begin seeking answers if you suspect your child could have autism? The first step is visiting your child’s pediatrician. Pediatricians can perform an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) screening. A screening is not a diagnosis. It’s simply a way for medical providers to determine if a child shows certain signs of autism and should be examined further by an autism specialist. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism between the ages of 18 months and 24 months, regardless if they show signs of ASD. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers Revised with Follow-up or M-CHAT-RF is a 23-point questionnaire filled out by the parents. It is the most common screening tool used by pediatricians. Most families find the questionnaire relatively easy. 

If your child’s pediatrician determines they need further testing, they will refer you to a specialist near your area. They may refer you to a developmental pediatrician, a pediatric specialist in ASD, or they may refer you to a mental health professional who also specializes in autism spectrum disorder. Both specialists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorder. 

If your child is a patient of Mantachie Rural Health Care, we can help you take the first steps in getting a diagnosis. Call 662-282-4226 or click here to schedule their visit today. 

The Most Common Early Signs of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting a child’s social skills, communication, and development. One in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism. In many cases, signs of autism begin to show while children are still babies. 

Today we’re looking at the most common early signs of autism. These signs may not be obvious at first because most autistic babies still sit, crawl, and walk on time. Hitting these milestones makes it easy to overlook other delays in developmental milestones such as body gestures, pretend play, and developing a social language. Subtle differences in children with autism may present before their first birthday and typically become more obvious by 24 months of age. 

Before we share the common early signs of autism, it’s important for parents to know that symptoms vary by each child and your child could show some, all, or none of these signs and still be on the spectrum. Remember that if your gut, or parental instinct, is telling you something is off, it’s a good reason to contact your child’s medical provider and get an answer. 

Common Social Differences

Many babies with autism fail to keep or make very little eye contact, even with parents. They also don’t usually respond to a parent’s smile or facial expression. Other social differences you may observe include:

  • Not looking at objects or events the parents point to
  • Not pointing at objects to direct your attention to them
  • Not bringing objects of personal interest to show to parents
  • Not showing appropriate facial expressions such as a smile when given a toy
  • Not showing concern or empathy for others
  • Being unable to or uninterested in making friends

Communication Differences

In addition to not pointing to things, babies on the autism spectrum often don’t say single words by age 16 months. They may also repeat what others are saying without understanding the meaning of the words. Other communication differences to watch for include:

  • Not responding to their name being called but responds to other sounds like a cat’s meow or a loud horn. 
  • Referring to themselves as “you” and mixing up pronouns
  • Often seems to want to avoid communication
  • Cannot start or continue a conversation
  • Regression in language skills or other social milestones between ages 15 and 24 months

Behavioral Differences

These are some of the most obvious signs of autism. Stereotypical behavioral differences such as rocking back and forth, spinning, twirling fingers, flapping hands, and walking on toes are the most common differences in children with autism. Children with autism may also:

  • Like routines, orders, or rituals and have difficulty with changes or transitioning to a new activity
  • Be obsessed with a few or unusual activities they perform repeatedly
  • Play with parts of toys instead of the whole thing
  • Appear to not feel pain
  • Be or not be sensitive to certain smells, sounds, lights, textures, or touch. 
  • Have an unusual use of their vision or gaze

If you’re reading this, you may have concerns about your child and autism. Your family medical provider is the best place to start getting answers. Mantachie Rural Healthcare can help. Request an appointment today at 662-282-4226. 


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