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How to Understand Autism

Learn about autism from pediatrician Dyan Hes, M.D. in this Howcast video about newborn and baby development.


So the topic of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Delay, is a very hot topic these days in pediatrics.

We definitely are seeing an increase in the diagnosis of Autism, and that is perhaps because doctors have been better trained to diagnose Autism. I think in the past, when perhaps when we were in medical school or in residency, we didn't have a defined spectrum of the disease, but now we do.

What is most important, as a parent, is that you keep you well visit appointments with your pediatrician. We have so many frequent well visits now, at one month, two months, four months, six months, nine months, 15 months, 18 months, 24 months, you know, at two and a half years and at three years, because it's really important for the pediatrician to follow the development of your child.

Often parents, it's your first child, or you know, your first child didn't develop properly and then your second one isn't, and then you don't know. So that's why you need a second set of eyes, to look at your baby, and to see if the development is on target.

At each visit, you as a parent should ask your doctor, what is going to come?
What's going to happen between two months and four months? What's gong to happen between four months and six months?

That's a little bit early to diagnose Autism, but between six months and 12 months, when a baby's going to be much more interactive with the surroundings, with other people, communicating, making eye contact. Those are important milestones that you want to talk to, and discuss with your pediatrician.

Usually parents have a good sense if their baby is not developing well, and you should definitely bring that to your pediatricians attention. If there's a family history of Autism or developmental delay, you should definitely bring that to your pediatrician's attention.

In addition, if your baby had milestones, let's say your baby was saying, 'mama' and 'dada', at one year, but at 15 months your baby's not saying any more words, or hasn't said any new words, you should bring that to your pediatrician's attention.

In addition, if your baby doesn't get excited by thing that's around them, like laughing, you know, laughing mom or dad, or their sibling enters their room, or your baby doesn't even respond when somebody enters a room, or get excited, you might want to mention that to your pediatrician.

I believe firmly in giving vaccines. Many parents have read a lot of outdated articles, and there's a lot of misinformation out on the Internet about vaccinations and Autism.
There has never been a link between vaccinations and Autism. Vaccines prevent childhood and infant death. I am very pro vaccines, and it is your right as a parent to have that discussion with your pediatrician, but I do recommend vaccinating all children on time.

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