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Does my daughter have autism?

Q: My daughter is two years old. We got her checked for autism as she does not respond to her name and neither does she speak any word. Both of us are working due to which we are not able to interact with her at all; hardly 5-10 minutes in the day. She stays with her grandparents who take care of her needs like food, bath etc. but they do not interact with her either. She keeps watching TV all the time. She has started doing things like drinking water from tumbler etc. only after learning it from TV. She does not respond to her name. Till now none of us call her by any particular name. We use different names or no name at all. She plays on her own, takes care of herself like walking carefully on slippery floor or catching hold of railing while on steps. But she does not walk on slopes and if she does, she takes calculated steps. She does not have any eye contact with us. Though it has improved in last few days but is still minimal. She does not stick to one toy for long and soon gets bored of it. She does not speak any meaningful words like mama or papa. She does not interact with any children of her own age group and we don't know if she will do so in future. She seems to like older children (7-8 years old) and tries to interact with them when she goes to the park - but walks off on her own if there is no immediate response from them. She does not try to interact or play with them. We showed her to a child specialist in Mumbai who advised a hearing test and a psychological test. Her hearing was normal but the psychological tests say that she has few autistic features. Hence her reaction may be explained by lack of interaction and proper stimuli. Do we need to go for another evaluation for autism? If she indeed is autistic, then how to deal with this? Is autism curable and will she be able to live a normal life when she grows up? Will she be dependent on someone in future?

A:The fact that your daughter has shown improvement with only a little stimulation from the parents is very hopeful. Please ensure that you talk to her, looking at her and playing with her, when she is in the mood for it. It does seem a pity that she has spent two years without much interaction with parents or grandparents. Having TV on all the time will just be noise, from the child's point of view. Cut down her TV watching and give her things like stuffed toys, building blocks and even spoons and cups to play with and manipulate. Perhaps all four of you should agree on calling her by one name, giving her a chance to develop an identity and a name. At this age, most children will move from one activity to another. A short attention span by itself is not a cause for worry. It is good to hear that your daughter tries to make contact with older children. Take her out to the park and to friends' homes, where she can meet other children. Help her along if she is shy, but do not force her in any way. Be inventive in capturing her interest. I think that story telling and reading from picture books will be good activities for the daily routine. Singing for her and with her will make the home more lively for the little girl. Both parents need to increase the time spent with her. Your expressions of affection (like hugging her and holding her) will give her a feeling of security. I think that cheerful and active interactions with the child will bring her close to the levels of speech and participation of other two year old children. Just to be sure that she has no special problem. You should consult a specialist in Autism, if you continue to have the feeling that your child is not responsive.

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