Early Signs Of Autism In Children
Early diagnosis means early intervention. It helps provide your child a higher quality of life through teaching life skills with therapies and games.
There are certain signs to look out for while your child is growing up. They hit developmental milestones, indicating that their social, communicative and behavioral developments are on track.
Here are some of the early signs that your child may need to be further examined and tested by your physician.
Common Signs Of Autism
Some of the more common signs that may indicate a person has autism include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Delayed speech and communication skills
- Reliance on rules and routines
- Being upset by relatively minor changes
- Unexpected reactions to sounds, tastes, sights, touch and smells
- Difficulty understanding other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s emotions
- Focusing on or becoming obsessed by a narrow range of interests or objects
- Engaging in repetitive behavior such as flapping hands or rocking
- Children not responding to their name by 12 months
- Children not pointing at distant objects by 14 months
Worried you or someone you know might have some of the signs of autism? The Ada app can help you check symptoms. or find out more about how it works.
What An Autism Diagnosis Means For Older Children And Teenagers
You might wonder whether getting and having an autism diagnosis in later childhood or adolescence will make a difference to your child.
The diagnosis itself wont change your child, or the way that you think or feel about your child. But it might help you and your child understand your childs strengths and difficulties.
A diagnosis describes your childs strengths, abilities, difficulties and needs. And it can help to guide therapies and support for your child and help with getting services and funding to support your childs development for example, extra help at school.
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Data Highlight Gaps In Autism Treatment
In the study, 12% of kids with autism spectrum disorder didn’t receive any of the suggested services. Less than half received the kind of behavioral therapies that are believed to be most helpful.
“There are many reasons children with autism are not receiving the interventions they need, including lack of insurance coverage and inadequate numbers of trained professionals,” Dawson says. “It is critical that we address the barriers that are preventing children from receiving early intervention. “
Daniel L. Coury, MD, agrees. He is a professor of clinical pediatrics and psychiatry at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He says that doctors need to do a better job of identifying autism earlier and getting these children into services at younger ages.
“If we can get more physicians to do that, it would be a start,” he says. This is not going to pick up every child, as those more mildly affected may not be identified until their school years.
Amy Keefer, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore, Md. She says that parents need to advocate for their children.
“Be involved with practitioners who are experts in autism at the first concern, and if a diagnosis isn’t given, ongoing monitoring, assessment, and checking in can help guide parents through the developmental stages,” she says.
What Does Research On Autism Tell Us
A recent study focused on this question. Researchers looked at more than 1,200 toddlers who had at least two developmental evaluations between 12 and 36 months. Less than 2% of the toddlers initially thought to have autism were subsequently thought to have normal development. And on the flip side, 24% initially thought to not have autism were then later diagnosed as having it. So while the picture is not always clear at first, once the diagnosis is made, it usually sticks.
At what age can the diagnosis be reliably made? At 12 to 13 months the diagnostic stability of the autism diagnosis meaning the degree to which it was certain and stuck was about 50%. This went up to 80% by 14 months, and 83% by 16 months. This makes sense if you think about the development of a toddler. At 12 months, they are just starting to say words, respond to commands, and interact with others. So a child who isnt reliably doing those things would be cut some slack. But by 18 months, all those skills should be solidly in place, raising alarm bells about a child who doesnt have them.
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Talking With Other People About Your Childs Autism Diagnosis
Talking about your childs autism diagnosis with other people might feel strange or hard at first. You might wonder who to tell and what to say. These decisions are up to you and your child but getting things out in the open can really help you and your child. It can also help others to better understand your child.
How Is Autism Treated
There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can substantially improve those symptoms. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of the individual. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Educational/behavioral interventions: Early behavioral/educational interventions have been very successful in many children with ASD. In these interventions therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as applied behavioral analysis, which encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative ones. In addition, family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with ASD often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with ASD.
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How Autism Is Diagnosed In Older Children And Teenagers
Theres no single test for diagnosing autism in children and teenagers. Instead, diagnosis is based on:
- watching how your child interacts with others that is, how your child is developing now
- interviewing you and your child
- reviewing your childs developmental history that is, how your child has developed in the past.
Diagnosis usually involves many specialists and professionals testing and assessing your child this is called a multidisciplinary assessment. When many specialists work with your child, it gives your child the best chance of an accurate diagnosis. It also helps to develop the best plan to support your child.
A multidisciplinary team will usually include a paediatrician, a psychologist, a speech pathologist, and sometimes a child psychiatrist. It might also include other professionals, like an occupational therapist.
The professionals might want to see you and your child several times. Theyll ask you questions about your childs current and past development and behaviour. Theyll measure your childs strengths and difficulties in areas like thinking, moving, communicating and so on. And theyll watch how your child interacts with others.
You might meet with all the team members on the same day in the same place. Or you might see one professional at a time. For example, you might see a speech pathologist or psychologist first and then a paediatrician at a later time.
Most children will also have a language assessment by a speech pathologist.
Intellectually Stimulating Activities For Kids With Autism
Instead of having your child mindlessly watch movies all day , pull out some of these autism activities at home to get their brains reeling:
- Mind Games: Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Word-Finds
- Reading: Turn to online books and magazines for more variety
- Jigsaw Puzzles: Buy puzzles online or print out a puzzle template and add a picture or have them draw their own
- Painting: Here are some Paint-by-number printouts to get started
- Pen Pal Letters: Have them write to friends, teachers, and loved ones they cant see in quarantine
- Homework: Of course make sure they keep up with any assigned homework from school
- TV Learning: Watch documentaries on a wide variety of topics
- Fun Math: Simple addition and subtraction problems using toys, food, etc. Here are some ideas
- Music Time: Listening to music, playing instruments, following and mimicking rhythms through dance or percussion
- Creating Stories: Make a book out of folded & stapled pieces of paper and help them write a story with their own illustrations
- Scavenger Hunt: Create an old fashioned scavenger hunt or try an escape room for them or see if they would be willing to create one for you
- Science Experiments: Look up some safe and easy-to-make science experiments that you can put together in your own kitchen Here are some ideas
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How Is Asd Diagnosed
ASD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person depending on the severity of the disorder. Symptoms may even go unrecognized for young children who have mild ASD or less debilitating handicaps.
Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by clinicians based on symptoms, signs, and testing according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V, a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders. Children should be screened for developmental delays during periodic checkups and specifically for autism at 18- and 24-month well-child visits.
Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:
- no babbling or pointing by age 1
- no single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
- no response to name
- excessive lining up of toys or objects
- no smiling or social responsiveness
Later indicators include:
- impaired ability to make friends with peers
- impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
- absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
- repetitive or unusual use of language
- abnormally intense or focused interest
- preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
- inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
What Are Some Early Signs Of Autism In Toddlers
When a baby becomes a toddler, various developmental differences, signs and symptoms may become more apparent with the growing age of the child.
During their first year, toddlers with autism spectrum disorder may not:
- like seeing new faces,
- may not be able to walk, or w__alk only on their toes__
- may find certain sounds, tastes and smells upsetting,
- may fall into repetitive movements, like flapping their hands.
These signs may be more noticeable compared to the signs presented early on. However, the majority of children with autism are not diagnosed before the age of two due to missed signs by caregivers, or lack of access to specialists.
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Being On The Spectrum Can Mean A Wide Variety Of Experiences
Autism is described as a spectrum of disorders for a reason. Signs of autism can present differently.
Some individuals will have significant behavior and communication challenges that make the possibility of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis more likely.
In other cases, caregivers may notice occasional atypical behaviors but that dont immediately cause them to seek a full behavioral health evaluation.
In the latter scenario, a child may never have their autism diagnosed or addressed therapeutically. Its possible that mildly-expressed forms of ASD behavior go completely unnoticed.
But another possibility is that an undiagnosed child or their caregiver will feel frustrated by a lack of explanation for certain behavioral events. They may struggle with socialization, for instance, or they may lack commitment to extracurricular activities.
Ignoring the possibility of an autism diagnosis, especially if a child seems mostly neurotypical, can make it more difficult for them to adjust and have their needs met. For this reason, teachers and caregivers who observe subtle signs of ASD should speak with a mental health professional.
A childs parents, teachers, and others with a direct role in their life are the best observers when it comes to picking up on a possible autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Only a licensed mental health professional can come to a full, accurate diagnosis, but you dont have to be a professional to suspect that an ASD diagnosis is possible.
Autistic People May Act In A Different Way To Other People
Autistic people may:
- find it hard to communicate and interact with other people
- find it hard to understand how other people think or feel
- find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
- get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
- take longer to understand information
- do or think the same things over and over
If you think you or your child may be autistic, get advice about the signs of autism.
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Late Recognition Of Symptoms
Next, it’s important to distinguish between a late recognition of symptoms and late onset of symptoms. According to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria: “Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period .”
In the case of high-functioning autism, for example, it’s not unusual for a child to receive a diagnosis much later than most children are diagnosed with autismbut that’s not because symptoms suddenly developed. Rather, the symptoms are so subtle that it’s only with time that their impact becomes obvious.
“Masked” symptoms are particularly common among girls, who are more likely to, for example, follow others’ lead or become very passive in order to avoid being identified as “different.”
Which Treatment Strategies May Help Children With Autism
The main treatment for autism is called applied behavioral analysis . This is a behavioral program that breaks actions and behaviors down into small steps. It encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors. Other treatments include occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, and strategies to improve communication, such as using pictures that children can point at to let caregivers know what they want.
Heres the thing: ABA and the other treatments are helpful for children with developmental problems, no matter what their cause. There is no downside to doing them even if the child ultimately is found to have a different problem or no problem at all. They are good for the child with autism, the child with a language disability, or a late bloomer. Yes, its hard for parents to hear a diagnosis of autism. But there is much reason for hope when it comes to autism, and we should never waste time when a child needs help.
The CDCs Act Early campaign has a whole host of resources to help parents and caregivers know if a child is developing normally, or if there might be a problem. If you think there is a problem, ask for help. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire
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Other Signs Of Autism
You may also have other signs, like:
- not understanding social “rules”, such as not talking over people
- avoiding eye contact
- getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
- noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not
- having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
- liking to plan things carefully before doing them
Regression Can Be Real Or Apparent
Over the past few years, there have been some debates as to whether regression, in which there is a loss of acquired communication or social skills, is a real phenomenon or an apparent one. Some have wondered whether parent reports were exaggerated.
Video records, however, combined with studies, make it clear that at least some children do in fact regress into autism while others either show signs of autism in infancy or “plateau” in their development.
A relatively new set of studies looking at the younger siblings of children with autism in their earliest months are discovering that subtle regression is quite common. While parents may notice issues such as loss of language or eye contact, researchers are noticing small losses in the areas of motor skills and response to social cues.
Such regression typically occurs before age 3. According to researcher Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, “upwards of 20% to 30% recall a period when their children lost social and communication skills in the second year of life.”
At present, no one knows exactly what causes regression, but according to developmental-behavioral pediatrician Paul Wang, We understand now that regression is common. It starts early, and it can affect many different developmental skills.”
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Messy Play Activities For Kids With Autism
Pediatric clinicians, particularly occupational therapists, frequently use messy play in order to address sensory issues related to picky eating and other tactile needs. In other words, its a delicate subject for some children with autism, but if your child is the type to dive into the mess, give these activities a try :
- Shaving Cream Finger Painting: This can be done outside or in the bathtub. Color cream with water-soluble paint to make it more fun. Use whipping cream if your child is small and has a tendency to put everything in their mouth.
- Gardening Activity: Plant seeds in pots and finger-paint the pots.
- Rock Painting: Go find some rocks outside, clean the dirt off and decorate.
- Mud Play: Send your child outside with play clothes and the hose. Let them go crazy creating mud puddles.
- Bubble Time: Blow bubbles on the porch using store-bought or homemade bubble solutions.
- Homemade Play Dough, Gak, or Putty: Look up some fun recipes that use inexpensive ingredients, and if your child is age-appropriate have them participate in making the dough.
- Driveway Chalk: Unstructured or academic learning via outdoor chalk.
Emotional And Behavioral Difficulties
- You have trouble regulating your emotions and your responses to them.
- Changes in routines and expectations cause outbursts or meltdowns.
- When something unexpected happens, you respond with an emotional meltdown.
- You get upset when your things are moved or rearranged.
- You have rigid routines, schedules, and daily patterns that must be maintained no matter what.
- You have repetitive behaviors and rituals.
- You make noises in places where quiet is expected.
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