Good Beginnings 5: Early Identification of Autism

Savannah was walking at 8 months and had a 100-word vocabulary at 18 months. But one day, she suddenly stopped talking and started to only grunt, moan, and whine. Her alarmed mother, Kelly Harrison, immediately took her to a pediatrician, who directed her to the nearest regional center, where special needs children are assessed.

“Since I’m trained as a preschool teacher, I knew something was really wrong,”said Harrison. “I knew I had to get her help – and fast.

“Although it took four months of navigating red tape to get that help, Savannah was diagnosed as autistic in February, and now 2 ½, she is making good progress with daily occupational and speech therapy at the Pediatric Therapy Network in Torrance.

The need for and benefits of early identification of developmental disorders such as autism are topics of the latest “Good Beginnings” segment.
“We want to educate all parents about infants’ and toddlers’ developmental milestones, so that they can work with their pediatricians and regional centers to identify and address any learning delays as early as possible,”said Mona Delahooke, a Pasadena child psychologist who specializes in early identification of developmental disorders.

5 Developmental Milestones to Watch For in Infants/Toddlers

1. Looking at faces and turning toward sounds at 0-3 months.
2. Sustained smiles at 2-5 months.
3. Intentional interactions with caregivers, verbal or nonverbal, at 4-10 months.
4. Using multiple actions intentionally, such as taking caregiver’s hand, at 10-18 months.
5. Using words or interactive play with caregiver at 18-30 months.

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