Parents should never try to diagnose their own child with autism or rely on the Internet or family or friends to decide what's going on with their child. Your child's pediatrician is the first person to speak to if you suspect a problem. However, there are some things to do if you think autism is a possibility, while you are waiting for your doctor's appointment.
Do research. If you suspect your child is showing signs of a problem, hit the library. Look online and for books on autism that have checklists of warning signs for different ages. Take a look at the lists for your child's age to see if she is exhibiting early symptoms of autism. Also, take note of any regression in your child's development at any stage.
Look for warning signs in your child. These will vary depending on the age of your child and his individual makeup, but there are some general things to watch out for. HelpGuide authors Melinda Smith, M.A., et al. suggest taking note if your child, at any stage, begins to regress. For instance, if he used to wave bye-bye or say a few words and stops, that may be cause for concern. Also, if your child is not reaching her developmental milestones on time, that is something to pay attention to. Young children that don't smile or show affection may also need to be evaluated further.
Speak to your child's pediatrician and ask for her to screen your child for autism warning signs. If you feel that your pediatrician isn't taking your concerns seriously, press the issue or find a new pediatrician, as it's important for your child to have intervention as soon as possible if he does turn out to be autistic. Bring your own notes with you to the office visit, detailing what you have observed, and when. For example, if your child used to say "Mama" and "ball" and now has become nonverbal for the past month, it's important that the pediatrician understands that.
Go for evaluations. If your pediatrician agrees that your child is showing some signs of autism, you will likely be sent to other professionals for more detailed testing and evaluations. Depending on the child's age, this may include other pediatricians, a psychologist, an occupational therapist and/or a speech pathologist, explains Autism Speaks.
- Only a doctor can diagnose autism, so it's important to seek medical help if you suspect your child may have a problem, as early diagnosis and intervention can make all the difference in successful treatment.