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Watch Out for Signs of Autism in Babies!

nosis and treatment.

The report said that about 17 percent of U.S. children have a developmental disability such as autism, mental retardation and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, but that the disorders are diagnosed in fewer than half before starting school.

The authors say warning signs include failure to:
focus on sights and sounds by 2 months.
initiate joyful behavior with parents by 4 months.
exchange smiles and sounds with parents by 8 to 9 months.
take a parent's hand to find a toy and point to objects by 12 to 16 months.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that pediatricians routinely evaluate children for developmental problems such as autism starting in infancy, and begin testing at age 9 months.

"Waiting until a young child misses a major milestone such as walking or talking may result in late rather than early recognition ... depriving the child and family of the benefits of early identification and intervention," the academy said.

But some critics worry that the trend will trigger needless diagnoses in children with normal variations in behavior.

Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, a London, England, physician, said that while early recognition and treatment of true disorders are important, "the extension of these categories to include 20 to 30 percent of all children reflects a social trend of pathologizing and medicalizing children's lives, which seems to reflect difficulties of parents and teachers in dealing with familiar problems of childhood development."

Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a psychiatry professor at George Washington University and a co-author of the CDC-Interdisciplinary group report, said the idea is not to slap a label on babies and give them medication. Greenspan said the goal is to raise awareness about early warning signs and to encourage treatment to increase the chances that children can
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