In recognition of National Autism Awareness Month, we want to spread awareness of the condition and discuss the early signs of autism and how to recognize them in children. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopment disorder that has a number of characteristics including: social and cognitive impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors and interests.
Signs of mild autism can be identified through behavioral symptoms in many children from 12 to 18 months of age and sometimes even earlier.
The Most Common Early Signs of Autism
The majority of children aren’t diagnosed with autism until the age of 3, as many parents are not aware of these early signs. Most parents begin to notice when their child has difficulties with speech and communication and miss the key stages of development.
Here is a list of some of the most recognizable early signs of autism to look out for:
- Struggling to make eye contact
- Not responding to his or her name
- Problems following another’s gaze or gestures to other objects
- Disinterest in play and imitation
- Problems with nonverbal communication and body language
- Wanting to be alone
- Difficultly showing or understanding others feelings and their own
- Having little to no speech or delayed speech
- Constant repetition of words or phrases continuously (echolalia)
- Providing unrelated answers to questions
- Responding sensitively to minor changes
- Obsessive interests
- Repetitive small movements such as rocking of the body or nodding of the head
- Displaying unusual reactions to their surroundings and senses
- Avoiding and resisting physical contact
- A lack of awareness for safety or danger
- Talking in reverse pronouns
It is also important to mention that regression can happen in some children too. Certain individuals can stop using the social and communication skills they have already been taught. Regression means that children can stop using language, no longer have an interest in playing, and even their general social skills can seem to deteriorate.
What Happens Next?
If you think your child may be displaying early signs of autism, the recommended next step is to go to a developmental screening in order to determine if your child is learning basic skills without noticeable delay. For example, the doctor during this process may play a simple game with the child to see how they learn, communicate, and behave.
Please bear in mind that if your child was born prematurely, was a low birth weight, has a sibling with ASD, or strong behaviors or significant delays are noticed, an additional screening may be required.
Your child’s doctor should be providing a developmental screening test during routine check-ups. If you feel these are not being carried out you should ask them to include the screening in your next appointment.
Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation
If a doctor recognizes signs of ASD, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation (a thorough review) will be undertaken. This involves a more detailed assessment into behavior and development, including an interview with parents. In addition, this process may also include a vision and or hearing screening, as well as genetic and neurological testing if the doctor deems it to be appropriate.
In more advanced cases, a doctor may refer children to a specialist, who can carry out further assessment and diagnosis. These specialists can include; developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, or child psychiatrists.
We hope this blog post helps you identify the early signs of autism if you suspect your child may be developing autism. If you are in doubt, book an appointment with your doctor and ask them to undertake a developmental screening in order to determine their abilities and how you are able to help them based on the results.