Signs of Autism

Jane Tavyev Asher, MD, explains how important early diagnosis is in autism, and how early detection can improve outcomes for children
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Signs of Autism

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I can't stress enough the importance of early diagnosis in autism. Early diagnosis has definitely shown to improve outcomes for children. Most children with autism are diagnosed somewhere between 18 and 24 months, and this occurs when the child really doesn't have any language at all at that age. There are some signs that we are seeing through research that can be used as more early diagnostic markers of autism. A lot of these are still in the research stages, so we're not yet ready to make these absolute criteria, and every child does develop at their own developmental levels, so we don't want to induce panic in people who are looking for every little sign. But you do want to make sure that in the 1st year of life, your child is relating to you, smiling, making eye contact and starting to have some gesture language by 1 year of age. This can be something like waving hi, clapping the hands, playing peek-a-boo, often they can even point at that age. You want to have something present by 1 year of age, as well as the use of mama, dada or 1 word around the age of 1. If there's been absolutely no signs that the child is trying to communicate with you in any way, either through gestures, eye contact or language then I would recommend seeing your pediatrician first to see if your concerns should be addressed further by a specialist. Now, we know that with early diagnosis and early treatment, we can really make a difference in outcomes. This is because our therapies actually teach language and teach joint attention to the child. As I mentioned before, the environment also plays a role in brain development, and some of what we call environmental factors are actually the child's surroundings and interactions. These things all have an influence on how the brain is developing. So plenty of verbal stimulation from live adults, not from television, and that's important to stress that it shouldn't be from television. Plenty of live interaction from other people can actually make changes in the brain and make the child want to communicate or learn to communicate even more than they were able to. So detecting some of these challenges early on can really make an impact for the child's future outcome if early intervention is started.

Jane Tavyev Asher, MD, explains how important early diagnosis is in autism, and how early detection can improve outcomes for children

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Jane Tavyev Asher, MD

Division of Child Neurology - Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Dr. Jane Tavyev Asher is a board certified Child Neurologist and Director of the Division of Child Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  Upon attaining her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, she completed residency/ fellowship training in Child Neurology and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at Baylor College of Medicine/ Texas Children’s Hospital, where her clinical training focused on behavioral neurology, specializing in autism and other developmental disorders, and her research focused on epigenetic factors in autism.  She currently maintains a clinical practice at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she sees patients with a variety of neurologic conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, developmental delay, ADHD, learning disabilities, tics, headaches, and cognitive/ behavioral management in neuromuscular disorders.  She holds an academic/ research appointment as Assistant Professor at UCLA in the Departments of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.  Her current research interest remains in the area of autism.  Dr. Tavyev Asher is proud to contribute to the training of the next generation of physicians including those specializing in Pediatrics, Child Psychiatry, and Child and Adult Neurology, and she enjoys giving talks on various neurologic topics locally and nationally.  She is a member of the Child Neurology Society, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCLA CART (Center for Autism Research and Treatment), and The Help Group-UCLA Autism Research Alliance.  She also serves on the Advisory Board of Healthy Child Healthy Child Healthy World.  She enjoys art, music, yoga, skiing, and relaxing with her family.

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