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What You Need to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Today’s sponsored post from our partner Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center features Susan Ribeiro, MD, FAAP, a pediatric primary care physician with Saint Mary’s. Read on for what all moms need to know about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Susan Ribeiro is a pediatrician with Saint Mary’s Medical Group.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities. As the name implies, it is a spectrum with varying amounts of social, communicative, and behavioral challenges. Affected children can range from severely disabled to gifted, and now almost of half of children diagnosed have average to above-average intellectual abilities. The prevalence of children diagnosed with autism has been rising with time, up to 1 in 88 children in 2012.

Experts do not know all the exact causes of ASD, but there appear to be genetic as well as environmental influences. A family history of ASD does increase the risk for a child to be diagnosed with autism, as do some chromosomal abnormalities of the baby, and some drugs taken during pregnancy. There has been misinformation in the media that have made some parents worry that vaccines can cause autism. However, this has been extensively studied, and science does not support a link between vaccines and autism.

Symptoms of autism are usually first noticed in toddlers or preschool children, though most people with ASD do not end up being diagnosed until after their fourth birthday. Those with ASD may not learn to speak as expected, or they may lose verbal skills. They may not make good eye contact or play “pretend” games. Sometimes they are hypersensitive or stuck in rigid routines. However, there are also some kids without ASD who have some of the same symptoms. Some red flags to look for are:

  • Not responding to name or babbling by 12 months
  • Not pointing to objects of interest by 14 months
  • No single words by 16 months
  • Not engaging in pretend play (“make-believe”) by 18 months
  • Any time there is a loss of language skills, a child should be evaluated???????????????

Screening for ASD is routinely done by pediatricians at the 18- and 24-month check-ups. However, whenever a parent or caregiver has concerns, they should discuss them with their pediatrician. Early detection of ASD is key for intervention during sensitive periods of brain development.

This is the latest in a year-long series of posts from Saint Mary’s on everything you need to know to become a healthy mom and help your family thrive. If there’s a topic or question you’d like Saint Mary’s to blog about here, send an email to: editor@renomomsblog.com.


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The Reno Moms Blog is a community resource connecting Northern Nevada moms to each other and local resources both online and offline for nurturing, education, friendship and support.

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