Launched in 2008 to help galvanise international efforts to promote greater understanding about autism, United Nations World Autism Awareness Week is now an annual event starting April 2.
Experts agree there is a need for children at risk of developing autism to be identified at an early age before the behaviours associated with the condition have a chance to become entrenched.
Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia are leading the global push to identify such children. Robyn Young a psychologist from the Early Intervention Research Program at Flinders University comments, “we have found that kids who went into our program at 12 months of age have not ended up with autism.”
In an attempt to identify children at risk Young and her colleagues have developed a list of 16 behaviours that most children master by age one, but that children with an ASD generally acquire later.
Young suggests some of the things parents can watch out for include a child who does not respond to their own name and a child who does not follow a pointing finger with their eyes. However, experts are quick to clarify that a firm diagnosis of autism is an elaborate process.
The four main behaviour categories are: (1) gross motor difficulties, (2) social awareness and play deficits, (3) language and communication difficulties, and (4) unusual preoccupations.