Imitating others could help kids with autism

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 13th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Autism is one of the most confounding developmental conditions humans face. There is no single cause and it affects each person differently and to varying degrees. The disorder is marked by a lack of interest in friends and fixation on objects, among other peculiarities. April is designated as Autism Awareness Month to teach people about the condition and promote research.

Recent discoveries indicate that certain symptoms could make earlier diagnosis of autism possible. On the heels of this news, researchers have found one more way to help kids cope with the disability.

A Michigan State University study found that teaching kids with autism to imitate others helped them improve their social skills. The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, revealed that toddlers and preschoolers who were taught to imitate others tried harder to draw another person’s attention to an object through hand motions and eye contact. These two traits are notably absent in most kids with autism, and imitation is an important milestone to maturity that teaches kids how to relate to each other.

Autism is typically diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 3, but scientists are finding symptoms in tots as young as 12 months. Earlier diagnosis means earlier intervention and better chances for a sociable life.

Symptoms of autism include difficulty with conversation and relating to people and surroundings. Parents should pay attention to unusual ways of playing, like lining up toys in a particular way. Repetitive body movements, like hand flapping and head banging, a lack of imagination and a tendency to play alone are also signs.

If you spot these symptoms or have other concerns, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Autism doesn’t have to limit your child’s social life … and the first step is getting help.