Autism is a developmental disorder that affects children as early as infancy. It is usually characterized by delay in or deviation from standard patterns of development, primarily in areas such as social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and interests.A lifelong condition, the exact cause of autism is not known. It has been noticed that males tend to be more susceptible to autism than females.
The symptoms of autism mostly begin to surface in early age. Many children show signs of having autism by 6 months to 24 months of age. Many parents don’t understand these ‘early’ symptoms of autism as a result the autism in most children is identified after age 3. Study shows that early determination and early intervention play significant role on improving the life with autism, so it is so important to be aware of these early symptoms in a child as soon as possible.
Often parents are unwilling to acknowledge that their children may be autistic so resort to a ‘wait and watch’ approach. However, this may have an adverse effect on the child in the long run. As parents you are in the best position to notice changes so pay close attention to your child and alert the doctor of any abnormality. It is critical that parents educate themselves on what’s normal and what’s not so as to be able to recognize concerns at the right time.
Symptoms to look for in your child
By 6 months the following symptoms may appear:
- Avoids eye contact
- No babbling or “baby talk”
- Doesn’t smile at people
- Doesn’t respond or initiate to cuddling
- Doesn’t repeat smiles, sounds or other facial expressions you make
- Doesn’t enjoy or react on face-to-face play
By 18 months the following symptoms may appear:
Symptoms in 6 months and...
- Doesn't respond to his or her name
- Doesn't point or wave goodbye, hello or use other sign to communicate
- No spoken words
- Unusual attachments to any specific toy or object
- Doesn't show concern about others
- Follows a specific routine and has difficulty with any sort of change
- Have over- sensitivity or under-sensitivity to the sound, light, smell, taste, or touch
- Self-stimulatory behavior, or “stimming” such as Flapping hands, rocking body, staring at lights, walking on toes, Flicking light switches on and off or spinning in circles.
- Doesn’t seem to hear
By 24 months the following symptoms may appear:
See abovesymptoms and...
- No two-word spontaneous phrases to communicate
- Have difficulty understanding simple one-step directions or questions
- Doesn’t seem to be coordinated
- Have obsessive in few activities or objects
- Very low or no social skills
By 3-5 years the following symptoms may appear:
See abovesymptoms and...
- Doesn’t speak yet
- Unusual voice tone such as flat, odd rhythmic, high-pitched or robotic.
- Copies and repeats words or phrases or what hears from others or from the TV over and over (often called parroting or echoing).
- Causing self injury (i.e., pulling out hair, head banging, scratching or biting)
- Lack of fear or extreme fear than expected
- uncontrollable outburst of anger and frustration (also called tantrum)
- has low response or heightened to pain
- Prefers to play alone, rather than with other children
- Unusual eating tendency
- Unusual sleeping tendency
- mixing up pronouns (for example- says "you want the toy" when the child actually means "I want the toy")
- Plays with particular part of a toy (for example- spinning the wheels of a toy car)
- has an intense interest in one activity or one object ignoring anything else
- Repeats the same movements over and over again (like Finger flicking, hand flapping, Watching moving objects, arranging toys in specific ways, Staring at lights etc)
It is important to be aware that signs and symptoms of autism and its effects vary from person to person. In some cases the symptoms may be severe while in others it could be very mild. The key is to be vigilant and help your child deal with it. The earlier autism is detected the easier it is to interrupt its development and minimize problems. So don’t worry if you feel you are being overly cautious and paranoid.
What parents should do if they are worried?
If you observe any of the early symptoms of autism in your child, talk to your pediatrician as early as possible. The earlier you child gets proper intervention, the better outcome you will get.
- Consult with your pediatrician: Routine developmental screenings for all children is recommended American Academy of Pediatrics; and specific autism screenings at 9, 18, and 30 months of children. There are a number of specialized tools (such as checklist of symptoms or yes-or-no questions) for screening in order to determine the risk for autism in children. However, if you think that you are observing some early signs of autism in your child, talk to your child’s doctor right away.
- See a speech and language therapist: Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are trained to work with communication skills in young children. They work closely with children having language, speech and communication difficulties. They are also trained to identify developmental difficulties including autism and to advise for consulting with other professionals if required. But Speech and language therapists do not have permission to diagnose autism.
- Don’t just “wait and see”, Seek early intervention programs: Identifying autism is complicated and sometimes take time. But the benefit of treatment can be taken as soon as you observe any sign of developmental delays in your child. So, if you have doubt that your child is slow in social and communication development, look for help right away. There are many programs or intervention services associated with autism treatment which helps parents to learn how they can help their children. Your doctor should refer you to early intervention programs.
Autism should not be looked at as the end of your child’s future; it just means that your child may need more help and attention. Thanks to the advancements made, today with the right kind of treatment and care, many people with autism are living happy fulfilling lives.