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Web site gives parents look at signs of autism

December 30, 2019

first_imgThe new site is sponsored by two nonprofit advocacy groups: Autism Speaks and First Signs. They hope the site will promote early diagnosis and treatment, which can help young children with autism lead more normal lives. Pediatrician Dr. Michael Wasserman cautioned that the site might lead some parents to fret needlessly about normal behavior variations, and he said they shouldn’t use it to try to diagnose their own kids. “Just as there’s a spectrum in autism, … there’s a spectrum in normal development,” said Wasserman of Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. “Children don’t necessarily develop in a straight line.” But Amy Wetherby, a Florida State University professor of communications disorders who helped create the site, noted that sometimes “parents are the first to be concerned and the doctors aren’t necessarily worried.” She said the Web sites will help give parents terms to talk with the doctor as soon as they become worried. And while the children shown in the video clips titled “Red Flags” have been diagnosed with some form of autism, the site sponsors note that not all children who behave this way have something wrong with them. In fact, the behaviors in some of the short video clips – when viewed individually – look fairly normal. CHICAGO – What’s so unusual about a baby fascinated with spinning a cup, or a toddler flapping his hands, or a preschooler walking on her toes? Parents and even doctors sometimes miss these red flags for autism, but a new online video “glossary” makes them startlingly clear. A new Web site offers dozens of video clips of autistic kids’ behavior contrasted with that of unaffected children. Some of the side-by-side differences can make you gasp. Others are more subtle. The free site, debuting today, also defines and depicts “stimming,” “echolalia” and other confusing-sounding terms that describe autistic behavior. Stimming refers to repetitive, self-stimulating or soothing behavior, including hand-flapping and rocking, that autistic children sometimes do in reaction to light, sounds or excitement. Echolalia is echoing or repeating someone else’s words or phrases, sometimes out of context. The important thing is to seek medical help, to either rule out autism or get an early diagnosis, if a child persistently exhibits unusual behavior, said Alison Singer of Autism Speaks. Added Wetherby, “We now know that one out of 150 children has autism, or one out of 94 boys. It’s not a rare disability. We also know that early intervention is critical.” The site was to be available to the public starting today on the Autism Speaks Web site http://www.autismspeaks.org. Several autism specialists who reviewed it at the request of The Associated Press called it an unusually helpful tool for parents and doctors. “The moving pictures speak a million words,” said Dr. Edwin Cook, an autism researcher and educator at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Not only do I see this as useful for the general public and for parents who might be wondering, … but I will frankly be using it for education” and training, Cook said. He has received research funding from Autism Speaks but is not connected with the new site.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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