HOUSTON — April is Autism Awareness Month.
There is a good chance you know someone on the spectrum.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, which occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
Dr. Cathy Guttentag, a psychologist with UT Physicians, works with children who have been diagnosed as being on the spectrum and says early intervention is key.
“A child’s brain is still developing, especially when I see them very early, so there’s still lots of time for intervention and education,” says Dr. Guttentag.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability that occurs during early brain development.
“The latest research shows it probably happens prenatally.”
Dr. Guttentag says children can be diagnosed with the disorder, as young as 2 years old, but parents often notice signs of it during the first year of their child’s life.
Common indications of it include a child avoiding eye contact, not smiling back, not having interest in games like peek-a-boo, and not responding to their name by nine months of age.
“Little babies are incredibly social,” says Dr. Guttentag.
“If you feel like your child is tuned out or keeps to themselves, or not interested in interacting with other people, that is a red flag.”
Dr. Guttentag says the best course of action for a parent is to speak to their pediatrician or check out the state’s services for early childhood intervention.
“The wait and see, the watching, is not always the best policy. It’s really important to speak up for your child."