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David Baxter

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Website Features Videos of Autistic Behavior
Monday, October 15, 2007

Though most people can name some of the classic signs of autism (repetitive movements, impaired non-verbal communication, and delayed or impaired verbal communication), many may not know what exactly to look for when questioning whether a child has autism. A new website, created by Florida State University and two non-profit organizations, Autism Speaks and First Signs, provides resources for parents seeking a better understanding of how autistic behavior differs from normal behavior.

The website, which was launched today, features videos of children that clearly indicate behavior that is a "red flag" for autism. The videos, which include both children with autism and children without autism, demonstrate where normal behavior ends and autistic behavior begins. The website also includes a glossary of terms associated with autism, providing parents with the vocabulary necessary for discussing their child's behavior. Parents might know that echolalia means repeating the words or sounds of others, but they may not know for sure if their child engages in echolalia until witnessing it in another child. With an understanding of what the terms mean and what the behaviors actually looks like, parents can better gauge the possibility that their child might have autism. Parents should remember that all children develop differently, and not every child who engages in "red flag" behavior has autism.

Because the website allows parents to visualize the early warning signs of autism, it could help early detection to become more common. Autism can be diagnosed reliably by age three, but researchers hope that more children will be diagnosed at a younger age, even as young as six months. While pediatricians may be inclined to wait before diagnosing young children with autism, Autism Speaks and First Signs encourage parents to have their children screened for autism as soon as they believe there is a problem. Generally, younger children benefit more from early interventions, which help them to develop communication, cognitive, and social skills. With early help, these children will make a more successful transition into school.

Autism, which affects 1 in every 150 children, has far-reaching implications, and this site will be an important tool for parents of children with autism, parents worrying their child might have autism, and anyone else wanting to learn more about autism. Hopefully, knowing what autism looks like will allow more parents to find their children the help they need as soon as possible. With early assistance, these children will lead happier and more productive lives.
 

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