Recognizing early autism signals improves treatment strategies

| April 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

Shari Lopatin
TriWest Healthcare Alliance

PHOENIX — Did you know a child as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism, according to Autism Speaks?

According to the organization’s website, if your child does have autism, early intervention may be his or her best hope.

If you’re planning to have a baby or are currently pregnant, getting to know the early warning signs of autism can be a huge advantage for you and your kids. In fact, research suggests if you already have one child with autism, your risk of having another autistic child increases by about 20 percent, said Daniel Openden, vice president and clinical services director, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, or SARRC.

The following is a list of early warning signs that should serve as “red flags” to get your child checked, from SARRC and Autism Speaks:

•No good eye contact with you; however, babies learn through engaging with others.

•No large smiles or other happy expressions by 6 months.

•No variety of sounds, like “ba,” “ma,” “da,” starting around 6 months.

•No interest in exploring the world around them.

•No back-and-forth sharing of sounds and facial expressions by 9 months.

•No babbling by 12 months.

•No single words by 16 months.

•No meaningful phrases, without imitating or repeating, by 24 months.

“Thus far, research presented by experts at several autism conferences suggests that, while we typically cannot reliably diagnose autism until children are about 2 years old, the earliest signs of autism may begin to emerge between 6 and 12 months of age,” Openden said.

My baby shows red flags. What should I do?

Talk to your pediatrician immediately. Together, you will determine the best steps to get your child evaluated for an autism spectrum disorder as quickly as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that early intervention methods can greatly improve a child’s development. Therefore, if you suspect anything, don’t wait. Have your child evaluated and, if necessary, begin early intervention right away.

Tricare covers applied behavior analysis, or ABA, therapy for eligible children under its Enhanced Access to the Autism Services Demonstration.

To get ABA services, children must have an active duty sponsor and be enrolled in Tricare’s Extended Care Health Option, or ECHO. Then, they must have an eligible diagnosis, be living in the U.S. and be 18 months or older.

The Autism Demonstration covers all therapies that fall under the umbrella of “Educational Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders,” which includes ABA. It also covers services from more providers than are available under the basic Tricare coverage.

Available providers must be Tricare-authorized for the treatments to be covered.

Extended Care Health Option

For more information on Tricare’s ECHO program, visit:, or

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Category: Community, Health

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