Signs And Symptoms Of Autism In Babies And Toddlers
If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brains remarkable plasticity. Although autism is hard to diagnose before 24 months, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.
The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of typical behaviorsnot the presence of atypical onesso they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a good baby, since the infant may seem quiet, independent, and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for.
Some autistic infants dont respond to cuddling, reach out to be picked up, or look at their mothers when being fed.
New Research On Autism And Our Environment
Sex hormones, medications, certain metals such as lead, pesticides, and chemicals used to make plastic hard or pliable have long been suspected of having a role in autism.; They have not been proven to cause autism, but these are known to trigger or worsen other health problems, including some that affect the brain.; Many studies have shown that chemical exposures during development in the womb can have much more serious health effects than the same exposures would in adults.
A large 2014 study investigated the connection between autism and genital malformations using health insurance claims from almost a third of the U.S. population. Like autism, genital malformations are increasing: cases of undescended testicle increased 200% between 1970 and 1993, and the percentage of boys born with a deformity of the penis known as hypospadia doubled. ;;Many studies have shown that these malformations are more common among children whose mothers have high levels of chemicals that affect the hormones in their bodies, such as phthalates which are found in cleaning products, medicines, and personal care products like shampoos and creams The link between these chemicals and genital malformations has surfaced in other studies, particularly those involving women in professions that require working daily with these chemicals.
Signs Of Autism In Young Children
Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are usually clear by two or three years old. The range of behaviors and skills covered here may become apparent between two years old and five years old.
Some signs that a child has autism spectrum disorder may include:
- Not expressing emotion or only a limited range of emotions
- Difficulty interpreting different emotions in others
- Not seeming attached to parents
- Lacking interest in playing social games or the company of other children
- Interest in playing with one particular toy or object
- Echolalia, repeating other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s words or phrases
- Repeating own words over and over
- Using formal language and expressions, rather than the slang of their peers
- Not developing language skills at all
- Difficulty toilet training
- Challenging behaviour, such as banging head on wall or picking at skin
- Engages in behavior such as flapping hands, rocking or twirling
Children with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty interpreting what other people are thinking and feeling, and often miss social cues. A child with autism may not be able to tell the difference between an adult who says Ã¢â¬Åcome hereÃ¢â¬ï¿½ while happy and smiling, and an adult who says Ã¢â¬Åcome hereÃ¢â¬ï¿½ while angry and frowning. This can be confusing and creates the impression the child is not connecting with people.
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Facing The Demands Of High School
Meanwhile, the demands on teens increase dramatically. By high school, students are expected to change classes hourly, keep track of books and assignments for each class, follow complex directions, complete multi-phase projects, and turn in homework on time.
Amy Keefer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said schools and parents can help teens who struggle with planning, organization and other executive skills.
“Teens on the spectrum will require a greater level of external supports from family and the school,” Dr. Keefer said. Those supports may take the form of frequent parent-school communication, teachers checking assignment books to make sure they’re filled out correctly, and teachers helping students break down projects into smaller steps, with due dates for each step, she said.
Many elementary schools provide those types of organizational supports, plus help with social skills, she said. However, educators often reduce or eliminate such help in middle or high school, when students are expected to be more self-sufficient.
“In general, as you move up the grades, the amount of support and scaffolding you get from teachers drops off,” agreed Dr. Rosenthal.
That can cause problems. “For most kids on the spectrum, they need those supports throughout their school careers,” Dr. Keefer said.
Can You Develop Autism As A Teenager
There is a lot we dont understand about Autism Spectrum Disorder. For a couple of reasons, however, its very unlikely that a person who is neurotypical will later develop Autism Spectrum Disorder.
We dont understand the physical cause of ASD, so we cant test for it medically. Instead, conditions like ASD are diagnosed according to behavior and context. In the case of ASD, its specifically a developmental disorder. That means symptoms show up during the developmental period and may impact the learning of basic life skills.;;
Teens generally have passed the majority of their developmental milestones already. Their social skills and judgment are still developing, as are their bodies. However, developmental challenges would most likely already have appeared.
There are some cases of children gaining proficiency in some skills, then losing that proficiency as they get older and experience more severe symptoms of ASD. This is called developmental regression and is fairly rare. It has also been observed only in toddlers who are still in early development.
In an older teen or adult, this sort of regression wouldnt be associated with ASD. Most likely, it has its source in some other condition in which loss of already developed skills occurs. Finding a link between ASD and a later loss of skills would change our understanding of the condition on a fundamental level. At the moment, there isnt much evidence for making that link.
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Advantages And Disadvantages Of An Aspergers Diagnosis
The advantages of having an accurate, reliable diagnosis of Aspergers are many. It can eliminate the worry that a person is severely mentally ill. It can support the idea that the person has genuine difficulties arising from a real, legitimate condition. Other people, once they are aware that the person has Aspergers are often able to be more accepting and supportive. A new, and more accurate, understanding of the person can lead to appreciation and respect for what the person is coping with.
Knowing someone has Aspergers opens up avenues to resources for help as well as access to programs to improve social inclusion and emotional management. Acceptance by friends and family members is more likely. An acceptable explanation to other people about the persons behavior is now available leading to the possibility of reconciliation with people who have had problems with the persons behavior.
In the workplace and in educational settings, a diagnosis of Aspergers can provide access to helpful resources and support that might otherwise not have been available. Employers are more likely to understand the ability and needs of an employee should that employee make the diagnosis known. Accommodations can be requested and a rationale can be provided based on a known diagnosis.
Are there disadvantages to a diagnosis of Aspergers? Yes, but the list is shorter than the list of advantages.
Early Signs Of Autism In Adults
Autism spectrum disorder occurs in all age groups. It is generally characterized by social and communication difficulties.
Severe forms are usually diagnosed in the first two years of a childs life. However, high-functioning individuals may not be diagnosed until later in their lives.
Here are some of the symptoms in autistic adults:
- Difficulty in regulating emotion
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Educate Yourself About Autism
New resources for understanding and living with autism appear seemingly every day.
Talk to doctors, researchers, or speech pathologists with expertise in autism to learn:
- more about autism and how it works
- whats happening in a neurodivergent brain
- how you can advocate for your teen when others dont understand or accept who they are
Read plenty of books and visit online resources, too. Here are just a few:
Autism Services Still Needed In Adulthood
The improvement did not mean that autism went away, or that patients recovered from disabling impairments.
“Pretty much everyone in our study continues to need significant support,” says Shattuck, now an assistant professor at the Washington University School of Social Work in St. Louis. “They are profoundly disabled. They are not going out and getting jobs and getting married. They will need significant support for the rest of their lives.”
The results, Shattuck argues, show that adults with autism can continue to improve throughout their lives. That’s an important fact, as current federal support for people with autism ends after they reach the age of 21.
“This is the time of life when we are pulling the chair out from under people with autism,” Shattuck says. “You would expect them to get worse. There is this idea that people with disabilities are frozen in development, so why waste money on them? But if anything, this is a time when we should be providing support and services, because they can change and improve.”
Shattuck and Seltzer’s work is a breath of fresh air to Caroline I. Magyar, PhD, associate professor at the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester, N.Y. Magyar’s specialty is treating teens and adults with autism — a field often overlooked as research attention has focused on early-childhood autism.
“You wonder whether their improvement would have been even better if they had that kind of support,” Magyar says.
Early Signs Of Autism
Signs of autism in babies
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder, which means that signs become apparent as a child does not develop as expected, for example developing speech or learning to crawl later than expected.
As such, there are few signs of autism that are noticeable in newborns. However, if a baby fails to reach the developmental milestones expected at two months old, four months old, six months old, nine months old and a year old, this could be one of the first signs of autism or another developmental condition.
Good to know: Not all babies reach developmental milestones at the exact same time. It is normal to have some variation in development. If in doubt about a childÃ¢â¬â¢s development, check with a doctor.
Some of the early signs that a baby under one year old may have autism spectrum disorder include:
- Not babbling by four months old
- Not smiling by five months old
- Not laughing by six months old
- No interest in games like pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo by eight months old
- Not responding to their name by 12 months old
- Not looking at objects pointed out by other people by 12 months old
- Being upset by loud noises
- Not looking to a parent for comfort in new situations
- Being happy to play alone for long periods of time
- Not making eye contact
Signs of autism in toddlers
Some of the signs that a toddler, between one year old and two years old, may have autism spectrum disorder include:
Behaviour Signs Of Autism In Older Children And Teenagers
Repetitive behaviour and interests Older autistic children and teenagers might:
- have unusual interests or obsessions for example, they might collect sticks or memorise football statistics but not really be interested in the game
- have compulsive behaviour for example, they might line things up or need to close all the doors in the house
- have an unusual attachment to objects for example, they might carry toys around, or collect unusual items like chip packets or shoelaces
- be easily upset by change and like to follow routines for example, they might like to sit in the same seat for every meal or have a special order for getting ready in the morning
- repeat body movements or have unusual body movements, like hand-flapping or rocking
- make repetitive noises for example, grunts, throat-clearing or squealing.
Sensory sensitivitiesOlder autistic children and teenagers might:
- be sensitive to sensory experiences for example, they might be easily upset by certain sounds or uncomfortable clothes, or eat only foods with a certain texture
- seek sensory stimulation for example, they might like deep pressure, seek vibrating objects like washing machines, or flutter fingers to the sides of their eyes to watch the light flicker
- be less responsive to pain than other children.
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A Boy Who Disappeared
The question of the frequency of regressive autism was debated across a series of articles in 2014. First, an excerpt from a book in the New York Times Magazine told the story of Owen, who disappeared just before he turned 3 years old, becoming silent, refusing to make eye contact, and losing motor skills. Doctors diagnosed Owen with regressive autism, placing him in a different category than the children born with it.
Owen retained a fascination with Disney movies, eventually prompting his parents to use characters and concepts from those stories to harness his desire to communicate. After a number of setbacks, Owens family and a psychologist used Disney movies to help Owen develop communication and social skills.
The project was wildly, if painstakingly, successful. By age 20, Owen was leading a full and happy life.;
Autism In The Teen Years: What To Expect How To Help
What parent doesn’t watch their “tween” become a teen without a twinge of anxiety? Factor autism into the equation, and parents may well wonder how the physical and hormonal changes of adolescence will affect their child on the spectrum.
How will typical teenage rebellion look in someone who struggles with behavioral control? What will it be like traversing the social minefield of high school for someone with a social disability?
Many a teen boy has had to be convinced of the need for daily showers and shaving. How do you convince someone who has sensory problems to stand under water or drag a sharp razor across his face?
How Is Autism In Adults Treated
Adults arent generally given the same treatments as children with ASD. Sometimes adults with ASD may be treated with cognitive, verbal, and applied behavioral therapy. More often, youll need to seek out specific treatments based on the challenges youre experiencing .
Some possibilities include:
- seeing a psychiatrist experienced in autism treatment for medical evaluation
- consulting a social worker or psychologist for group and individual therapy
- getting counseling on an ongoing basis
- getting vocational rehabilitation
- taking prescription medication for symptoms like anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues that may occur alongside ASD
Many adults with autism have found support through online groups and forums, as well as by connecting in person with other adults on the autism spectrum.
What Support Is Available
Adults and elderly people with autism can receive a number of benefits, including financial support, help in finding employment and appropriate accommodation.
They may be eligible to receive Personal Independence Payments from the government and there are services out there designed specifically to help autistic adults find work. Contact a local support organisation to find out more about how to check your eligibility for Personal Independence Payments
Elderly people with the condition may find themselves needing a little extra care at home and there a number of options available, including professional support systems and residential care homes.
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Can You Develop Aspergers Syndrome Later In Life
Aspergers syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means the behaviors we associate with Aspergers are present at the earliest stages of life. For the most part, they are caused by problems in the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system. By definition then, the symptoms of Aspergers must be present from birth or at least observable before the age of three.
Older children, teenagers, and adults do not acquire Aspergers because developing Aspergers in adulthood is not possible.
It is often the case that the characteristics of Aspergers are not noticed until after three years of age or even much later, but it is still not possible for those characteristics to develop later in life and be considered Aspergers.
In other words, if social, communicative or behavioral problems have arisen later in someones life, they do not have to do with Aspergers. There is no such thing as acquired Aspergers.
Does Autism Get Better Or Worse During Adulthood And Beyond
Autism as a condition is still rather fresh-faced when it comes to the pantheon of medical diagnosis. This is because, while understanding of autism has been explored since the 1940s, it wasnt until the late 70s/80s when rates really took off. This means that, while we can expect our understanding of autism and ageing to pick up , right now, this understanding is more a work in progress.
Nevertheless, what we have come to understand from autistic people who received a diagnosis in the later stages of life, is that adulthood can be an exceptionally liberating/challenging time for people on the spectrum; as many of us will finally achieve a better sense of identity, only to age out of many of the support services which helped us receive this realisation.
Of course, while there is evidence to suggest that older autistic people are less likely to adapt , this is not always the case as, autistic or not, people become more steadfast and stubborn as they age as can be seen from the countless hours I have wasted teaching relatives over 60 to operate an iPhone!
Furthermore, anecdotal accounts from children of autistic people have found that, in later stages of autistic life, coping strategies which have taken a lifetime to perfect can tragically become the first victim to conditions such as:
- Huntingtons Disease
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