In 2009, it seemed like researchers at Cambridge University had found some clues to a pre-birth diagnosis. By taking a sample of amniotic fluid, they found commonalities between fluid in women whose babies were diagnosed with autism after birth. However, it’s been several years and there is still no clear pre-natal test for the disorder. Additionally, while some children clearly have autism from birth, some of them regress and seem to develop the disorder later.
Down Syndrome can be diagnosed before birth and some parents choose to terminate the pregnancies, but the possibility of diagnosing autism before birth has created controversy. Even if there were a test that could determine if a child was going to have autism, it wouldn’t be possible to know if the child would have really mild autism, like Asperger’s, or a condition more severe, that leaves the child unable to develop the ability to talk.
Though there is no way to determine whether your baby will have autism before he or she is born, there are ways to reduce your risk factors for having a baby with autism. Exposure to chemical pollutants, nutritional deficiencies, taking antibiotics during pregnancy, and other environmental factors are correlated with a higher likelihood of having a baby with autism. Additionally, the age of the parents, mother and father, are significantly correlated with autism. Having a baby at an older age comes with a bevy of risk factors, one of which is the increased likelihood of having a child with autism. Ultimately, science has not determined exact causes for the condition, so it is impossible to prevent it entirely. Focusing on a healthy pregnancy, healthy eating habits, and minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals are all good steps to take.
Once your baby is born, it is crucial to keep your eyes open and pay attention to any signs or signals that he or she may have autism. Autism is a developmental disorder, so the first clues of autism will be that your baby won’t develop at a normal pace. He or she may not smile, babble, point, or use basic words like “mommy.” Another key signal is a regression in skills. If your baby suddenly loses skills he or she previously possessed, make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. This is another sign that your baby may have autism. Early detection is the key to successful intervention.
Once a child is diagnosed, he or she should receive intense intervention that helps him or her develop social and communication skills as much as possible. Even as a baby, a child with autism can start speech therapy, occupational therapy, and exposure to music, etc. A quick response to a diagnosis of autism is important in order to give your child his or her best shot at developing more successfully.