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April is National Autism Awareness Month

Image of Margo Kerrigan Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H, Area Director

Indian Health Service California Area Office





April is designated as National Autism Awareness Month.  Autism is a developmental disability that usually appears within the first three years of life.  People with autism have difficulty communicating and interacting with others.  Those with autism may have delayed language and may have restricted and repetitive behavior.

There is no known specific cause of autism, but the number of individuals diagnosed with autism has been increasing over the past several years.  In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the prevalence of autism is 1 in 88 births in the United States, and in boys, the prevalence is higher at 1 in 54 births. 

There is no cure for autism but early diagnosis and intervention can lead to significantly improved outcomes.  During your baby’s well child visits, your doctor will likely do developmental screening and ask specific questions about your baby’s progress.  There are five behaviors that may signal that further evaluation is needed (a child not meeting any of these developmental goals does NOT mean your child has autism, but just indicates further testing may be needed):

  • Child does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Child does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Child does not say single words by 16 months
  • Child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Child has any loss of language or social skills at any age

Other signs parents can look for in children are:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or mannerisms
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous play or make-believe play
  • Constant fixation on parts of objects

Any concerns should be shared with your child’s doctor so appropriate evaluations can be done.  If your child is diagnosed with autism, your child may qualify for local early intervention services from the state.  For more information, visit: