Skip to content

    Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

    Font Size

    Routine Autism Screening Recommended

    Report Highlights Subtle Autism Signs to Look for During Wellness Visits With Doctor

    Not-So-Subtle Autism Signs

    The mostly verbal red flags that have previously been identified as absolute indicators for evaluation are:

    • No babbling, pointing, or other communication gestures by 12 months of age
    • No single words by age 16 months
    • No two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months
    • Loss of language or social skills at any age

    Neurodevelopmental pediatrician Scott Myers, MD, tells WebMD that roughly a quarter of children with autism experience verbal regression. The average age that this occurs is about 21 months, he says.

    "There is certainly cause for concern if a child that was using 20 words a few months ago suddenly doesn't have any language," he says.

    Early Treatment Is Critical

    The report on the management of autism and related disorders calls for intervention as early as possible, even before a definite diagnosis has been made.

    Treatment should include at least 25 hours a week of intensive behavioral therapy with a low student-to-teacher ratio, parental involvement, and sufficient one-on-one time.

    The report also calls on pediatricians to learn about the many alternative treatments being embraced by parents, so that they can discuss these options in an informed manner.

    These include vitamin and mineral treatments, chelation therapy, and restricted diets, such as the wheat- and dairy-free diet that actress Jenny McCarthy is promoting in a new book about her son's autism.

    "Pediatricians need to keep the lines of communication open and take an active role in helping to educate families about evaluating evidence," Myers says.

    He tells WebMD that there has not been enough research done to prove or disprove the value of most alternative treatments.

    The exceptions, he says, are treatments involving the digestive hormone secretin and the interactive therapy known as facilitated communication.

    Myers says both of these interventions have been well studied and neither has been shown to be effective for the treatment of autism.

    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    girl at window
    Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
    boy playing a violin
    Where do they fall on the spectrum?
    Mother and daughter indoors playing
    Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
    preschool age girl sitting at desk
    What causes this rare condition?
    High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
    Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
    Mother and daughter indoors playing
    man on bicycle
    girl at window
    Mother hugging teenage son
    Understanding Rett Syndrome
    Home Care Tips

    WebMD Special Sections