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My child doesn't make eye contact, is he autistic?

Q: My son is 3 years old. He was born in the 32nd week of pregnancy. We were told by our doctor that most of his milestones may get delayed, but eventually he will catch up with other children of his age in 2/3 years. His eye contact is not very good. Sometimes he looks directly in our eyes. He has not started speaking yet, though he has started uttering some words like `de de` and `na na` etc. He like playing with water, obeys most of the commands and physically is above average than other children of his age. Someone suggested us to consult a doctor for autism. What should we do? How can we improve our child`s eye contact?

A:Premature birth can lead to some developmental delay, but this should not by itself be a cause for worry. Instead of looking at one specific behaviour of the child, look at him as a whole person. If he relates to both parents warmly and generally enjoys playing with other children, you should be happy. Speech develops at different times for different children. Talk to him, read story books to him, play music, specially rhymes and songs and make his speech environment more interesting. If you have a suitable person (a Psychologist or Counsellor), you should consult him about your child. Improvement will be gradual, once a delay has set in. Nursery school admission may also help, if the programmes are not too academically oriented. All the best.

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