Q: At what age can autism be diagnosed?
A: Autism and similar disorders typically can be diagnosed by 18 months, but many children aren't diagnosed until they are 3 years of age or older. This delay should not happen. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, parents should watch for five warning signs of autism: the baby doesn't babble or coo by 12 months; doesn't gesture (point, wave or grasp) by 12 months; doesn't say single words by 16 months; doesn't say two-word phrases on his own by 24 months; or experiences a loss of any language or social skill at any age."Talking back" is another important milestone: When a mother makes funny sounds and talks to her 6- to 9-month-old, he should react to her. A baby who doesn't smile or make eye contact should be referred for immediate evaluation as well. If you think your child is behind others at 9 to 24 months, get an evaluation. The earlier developmental delays and autism-spectrum disorders are diagnosed, the more a child can be helped.