Dr Manny's Notes

Is your child showing signs of autism?

Do you know how to spot potential signs of autism?

Do you know how to spot potential signs of autism?  (iStock)

As caring parents, you adore watching your children play, learn, and interact with others. While your sweet newborn is turning into a babbling toddler, you see his personality bubble all around you. However, some parents might notice an odd indifference or lack of awareness in their baby early on. In this case, the child might be showing signs of autism.

Current studies suggest that 1 out of every 68 children have autism spectrum disorder. In the United States from 2006—2008, 1 out of every 6 also showed developmental disabilities. Although researchers have a hard time pinpointing the exact number of autistic cases, it affects scores of families worldwide.

Cord Blood Treatment?

Because autism does touch the lives of many children, two researchers teamed up to see how they might improve treatments for ASD. In an unprecedented study, Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg and Dr. Geraldine Dawson began testing 25 children at Duke University in North Carolina.

During the course of the testing, these children received several blood transfusions of their own umbilical cord blood. Researchers hoped that it would improve the usual autism signs.

According to the doctors, the cord blood contained stem cells that are difficult to find anywhere else. Over three-fourths of the children saw improvement in behavior.

While these results have excited Kurtzberg and Dawson, the researchers are curbing their enthusiasm for now. They need further testing to rule out a placebo effect and other factors. Still, many of these children are learning and maturing like never before, and their families are delighted with the outcome.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Most children who have autism show signs early on, and parents often notice developmental problems by 24 months. In mild cases, children may not get diagnosed until later on. Autistic children can behave similarly to other children, and they don’t have a distinct look that makes them different.

In addition, autism presents itself in different ways for different children. These children may not interact with others or respond to the playful tactics of family members.

They may have trouble speaking or learning new concepts as they get older, and they may be hyperactive. In any case, these children will have social and learning disabilities, but they may only present a handful of autism signs.

Below, you’ll find a list of behaviors that autistic children often have.

Autism Signs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autistic children may

  • React in odd ways to certain situations
  • Have little or no interaction with others
  • Have little reaction to surroundings
  • Respond to questions with nonsensical answers
  • Become agitated by change; want strict routine
  • Do not understand feelings (for themselves or others)
  • Have obsessions or extreme anxiety
  • Show a short attention span
  • Act impulsively
  • Show no fear or extreme fear of objects or situations
  • Have frequent meltdowns and behavioral problems

A child with one or two of these signs probably just needs extra help learning skills and interacting with others. If you see many of these signs in your child, though, you should test him for autism more definitively. Caught early, children with autism can find the help they need to learn skills effectively.

Autism Treatment

Currently, doctors cannot prescribe any medications to improve the autism specifically. Although the new stem cell research shows promise, doctors and parents work together to find the best medication for some symptoms.

Otherwise, you can find therapy services that may help your child continue learning important skills with a professional. The services you need may include occupational, behavioral, and speech therapies. You can also opt for a dietary or alternative approach, although you should consult your pediatrician about the safety of these methods.

At the first diagnoses, you may feel overwhelmed with the knowledge of your child’s disability. However, you can find treatment that will greatly improve your child’s learning, and doctors are even exploring alternative treatment. With help, these signs of autism will improve over time, and your child will still lead a full and thriving life.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.