Is my baby showing autistic like behaviours?
The first year of a child’s life is normally a celebration of “firsts” – first smile, first crawl, first proper food, first steps, first words…and if lucky, first full night’s sleep. But what if your baby doesn’t seem to be reaching these milestones? Every child is different, and meets these milestones at different times, so what are the red flags that parents should be aware of that could indicate cause for concern?
Helping children with early symptoms of the autistic spectrum has been Dr Stella Acquarone’s life’s work. Her goal as the Principal of the Parent-Infant Clinic and School of Infant Mental Health in London is to help parents and professionals identify the early signs in autistic spectrum, for it is in these early stages, which can be seen as early as 3 months, when the greatest results can be achieved.
If a parent is to raise their early concern with their local GP, in majority, they will rely on parent observations, observing the child themselves, and using a standardised ‘checklist’ for Autism in toddlers. However these tools are made for children who are 18 months and older, which is fairly late, especially considering when early detection and intervention can help with many of the frustrations that develop from communication problems for example.
The Parent-Infant Clinic is able to offer a wealth of expertise and range of approaches tailored to the need of the family and child to deliver the best results. These approaches take into consideration not only the psychological but also neurobiological, psychoanalytic and behavioural aspects. This creative approach is based on over 35 years of clinical experience, study and observation on the methods that work the best and it that allows Dr Acquarone and her team at The Parent Infant Clinic to work with to a wide range of problems and helps foster a positive experience for children of all ages. Dr Acquarone believes Psychology is a way of understanding. It provides you with a range of approaches and these should not constrain you. They should help you to look at all factors. It is for this reason that Dr Acquarone uses both what are seen as psychological and what are seen as psychoanalytic approaches as the client or situation requires.
Parents who have visited The Parent Infant Clinic have typically recognised the following traits that have raised concern for them:
Lack of eye contact: Most babies are born with an innate interest in the human face, particularly their parents and family.
Imitation: a baby should be able to imitate some of their parents expressions or actions from birth
No social smiling: Typically a baby will reflexively smile back if you smile at them starting as early as the first month, but certainly by the age of 3 months. As a test you can try looking at your baby with a neutral face, and then break into a wide smile that you hold for a few seconds. You can try three or four times. A typically developing infant should smile back most if not every time.
Not responding to their name: Most infants will be responding to their name when you say it by 9 months of age.
No social anticipation or Peek-A-Boo: Neurologically typical children will lift their arms in anticipation of being picked up, or start laughing (or crying) in anticipation of games like Peek-a-boo. Typically your child should be picking up on these traditional forms of play by 6-9 months of age.
Poor visual tracking: Take a brightly coloured toy and track it back and forth slowly in front of your baby. Does your child easily follow a brightly coloured toy with their eyes? Or do they seem to loose interest in it or disengage quickly?
Lack of social babbling: Typically babies love to practice babbling on the road to their first words. Babies with autism may be lacking verbal noises, be slow to verbalise, or suddenly stop verbalising after a point.
Fixation on unusual objects: Older babies who are later diagnosed with ASD develop fixations on unusual objects like fans, parts of toys (but not the toy), floor or ceiling patterns.
Here at The Parent Infant Clinic we believe early intervention to identify issues and provide effective support is crucial and can make an enormous difference to family life. We recognise the importance of offering emotional support during this time of isolation and offer online consultations and psychotherapy services for children and families during this unprecedented period. To book a consultation or to discuss online therapy, please get in touch. It can be too late but never too early.