Telling Your Child They Have Autism
Guest Writer: Karen Kaizuka, parent
Fear. That is the overwhelming feeling that rushes through me when I think about telling my son that he has autism. What do you say? How do you say it? Can we just not tell him?!!
Our little guy is 6. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 4. He is doing remarkably well. He is learning how to read. In fact, he is reading absolutely everything around him and is asking what words mean. We cant drive down the road without him reading signs, No Parking, Bridge Closed.
Every time we drive past the mall, he says, JCPenneys. One day he said, Mom, what is JCPenneys? I responded, Its a department store. The next time we drove by he said, JCPenneys. A department store. He then asked, Why is it called JCPenneys? I had no clue, so I quickly turned to Wikipedia for the facts.
Hes come such a long ways from a few years ago when he had lost most of his speech. I never thought that he would be able to answer a question. How many times did we act out skits about how one person asks the question, then the other person answers the question? No matter what, he would always answer the question, What is your name? with, What is your name? Now to have him inquisitive and asking questions is a dream come true!
We asked our Clinical Director, Felice Orlich, for some guidance on telling your child he/she has autism and here is what she had to say:
When The Mild Autism Term Is Used
So, what does a practitioner, teacher, or parent mean when they say a child has mild autism? Since there is no official definition of the term, every person using it has a slightly different idea of what it means.
Sometimes the term is used when an individual is clearly autistic, but also has significant spoken language and other skills. The term may also be used to help explain treatment decisions.
Furthermore, a person with “mild autism” may have advanced communication skills and academic abilities, but have very delayed social skills, severe sensory issues, and/or extreme difficulties with organizational skills . If and when these manifest may also depend on the specific environment or situation.
What Is Just Behavior
So instead, lets look at behavior. Because just the word behavior is kind of a loaded term.
If I asked you to list out some behaviors, what would you list? My guess is it would be things like hitting or kicking or refusal or defiance.
We typically think of behavior in the form of negative behaviors. But the fact is, behavior is simply the things we do.
So waving hi, using your voice to make sounds, and twirling your hair are all behaviors, too.
Everything humans do is behavior.
So when someone asks, is this autism or behavior? the answer is most often, yes.
But again, lets remember the question behind this question: what behaviors should I accept, and what behaviors should I change?
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Many Children Do Not Receive An Autism Diagnosis Until They Are Three Or Four Years Of Age Or Older But Choosing To Have Children Screened Early Can Mean They Are Diagnosed And Treated As Infants Which Raises Their Success Rate
Determining if your child has autism should be done as soon as possible if something is suspected. That is generally because getting your child into an early intervention program for autism in Little Rock can make a difference in how well they are able to cope with this particular disorder as they grow and develop.
In many cases, a child who gets prompt treatment for autism in Little Rock, especially when they are still an infant, can grow out of their diagnosis and no longer fall on the autism spectrum at an older age. That can help them both in school and in interpersonal relationships.
What Are The 3 Main Symptoms Of Autism
Autism or autistic spectrum disorder can manifest as different symptoms in different children. The average age of diagnosis is 2 years, though some children may be detected at around the age of 5 years.
The symptoms to look out for in children for suspected autism are:
- Delayed milestones
- A socially awkward child
- The child who has trouble with verbal and nonverbal communication
Delayed Milestones: Every child starts cooing, rolling over, babbling, smiling, pointing, and sitting up at an expected age. These are called milestones. Though every child grows at their own pace, you must visit the pediatrician if:
- The child does not smile by the age of 6 months
- The child has no facial expressions by the age of 9 months
- The child does not make cooing noises or babble by the age of 12 months
- No pointing or waving by the age of 12 months
- The child does not speak by the age of 16 months
Signs of social awkwardness: You must be concerned if your child
- Avoids eye contact while you feed him
- Prefers to play alone
- Does not respond to their name
- Does not like being touched
- Prefers fixed routines and even a minor change may upset them greatly
- Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them
Problems with verbal and nonverbal communication:
- Echolalia: They keep repeating words over and over
- They talk in a flat tone, devoid of expressions
- They do not understand emotions in a conversation
- Have difficulty communicating what they want
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Inspecting Toys Rather Than Playing With Them
Most young kids will inspect a toy before playing with it. But a child with autism may not move past the inspection phase, Pandey says. So while a child without autism will race a car along the floor, or fly an airplane through the air, a child with autism might continue to spin the cars tires or examine the bottom of the plane. Their interest is in the parts of the object rather than the whole, she says.
If another child tries to interact or play with him, a child with autism may not know how to react.
Autism Diagnosis: Speech Problems
During developmental screening, a doctor will observe how the baby reacts to the parent’s voice, smile, and other stimuli and may ask a few questions about the child’s reactions. The Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scale may also be used to evaluate a child’s communication level and help decide if seeking professional care is necessary. Other tests that determine hearing, speech development, and behaviors may be completed to help distinguish autism from other developmental problems.
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What Will Happen If Your Child Is Diagnosed With Aspergers
As part of your childs comprehensive evaluation, you will be asked about early childhood symptoms and your childs behavior will be observed, says Eric Hollander, MD, director of the Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. This evaluation will be critical to make sure your child gets the appropriate support services such as specialized educational settings, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and social skills training, he says.
You may also be referred to an autism diagnostic and treatment center. The nonprofit organizations Autism Speaks and ICare4Autism can connect you with resources and advocate for services at low or no cost to your family, Dr. Hollander says.
Its a good idea for parents of children diagnosed with Aspergers to seek counseling so they will be able to help their child learn to function, says John Carosso, PsyD, a child psychologist and certified school psychologist at Community Psychiatric Centers at the Autism Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It can also be helpful to get connected to a support group to help you, the parent, he says.
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.
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How Might My Child React
Your child may be pleased that they now have a better understanding of themselves.
Some children will become concerned that there is something seriously wrong with them which will affect their health. You may need to emphasise that autism is not a disease and no one can die from it. Autism is a life-long condition but with the right support, autistic people can thrive. It may be that your child needs some additional support. For example, your child might have a teaching assistant at school who helps them with tasks they find difficult. You could also point out that your child is good at some things at school which other children need help with.
Be there if your child wants to talk or ask questions. Some children may not want to ask questions face to face. Having a question box, diary or email system can make it easier for some children to ask personal questions. It also gives them more time to process your answer or think of other questions.
How Is Aspergers Diagnosed In Children
Your pediatrician or a social worker should be able to recognize that your child has a developmental delay, says Eric Hollander, MD, director of the Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. He or she will then most likely refer you to a specialist like a child psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist, or developmental neuropsychologist for an evaluation that includes various diagnostic tests. The parent may be interviewed about early childhood symptoms, Dr. Hollander says.
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How Early Can You And Should You Diagnose Autism
- By Claire McCarthy, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Autism is common. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 1 out of every 59 children has been diagnosed with autism. Thats a marked rise from 2000, when only 1 in 150 children had been diagnosed with autism.
There is a lot we dont know about autism, such as exactly what causes it or why it is becoming more common. But one thing we do know is that the earlier we start treating it, the better. Communication and social skills are built very early. We have our best chance of improving things if we work within that natural window. Thats why there has been a steady push toward making the diagnosis as early as possible.
It is not easy for parents to hear that their child has, or might have, autism. Even when there are worries about the childs development, it is natural to hope that a child is just a late bloomer, or a bit quirky. And indeed, some children are late bloomers, or quirky, or have an entirely different problem with their development. So how early can you reliably diagnose autism?
Lack Of Eye Contact And Joint Attention
Joint attention refers to two people sharing a focus on the same object after one alerts the other to the item using verbal or nonverbal cues. For example, a parent or caregiver will point to a toy or tell the child about it, and the child will then look at the toy. Joint attention is an important way of connecting and interacting with other people.
According to a 2016 article in PLOS ONE , from about 9 months old, a baby should be able to make regular eye contact and share focus with their caregivers.
Autistic babies can find it challenging to pick up on these social cues and may ignore the person or the object that they are pointing out.
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Is My Child Autistic Autism Spectrum Disorder
5 mins readSymptomsThe signs of autism, How to Distinguish a Child with Autism from Other Typically-Developing Children: Here are some examples that may help a parent tell the difference between normal, can help you find support services for children experiencing autism in12 Signs of Autism7 mins readPublished: Apr 05, If you or your childs doctor are concerned about the presence of any of these symptoms or your child has been diagnosed with autism, age-appropriate behaviorDoes My Child Have Autism?Signs and symptomsLive, Integrity, Its obvious if you need someone to follow a certain social map like you describe the girl needing, and keeping up with a 2With the right support, that childs confidence and self-esteem can be improved, also called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, However, along with their learning, Inc, but no reaction at all canLive, many of the symptoms for high functioning autism involve social relations, Many, including myself, Get Instant
What Are Other Signs And Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
A child with ASD may have challenges in communication, social and behavior skills, including:
- Has delayed speech and language skills. Some children with ASD cant speak at all or speak very little. About 40 in 100 children with ASD dont speak at all. Other children with ASD speak well.
- Has trouble talking to other people, starting a conversation and sharing his needs using typical words or motions like pointing. A child with ASD may talk a lot about something he really likes rather than have a conversation with another person.
- Doesnt understand jokes, teasing or sarcasm. Sarcasm means using bitter or teasing words to make fun of someone or something.
- Mixes up pronouns
- Repeats or echoes words or phrases
- Seems unaware when people talk to him, but responds to other sounds
- Talks in a flat, robot-like voice or talks in a sing-song or high-pitched voice
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Signs Of Autism In Girls
The ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is 4:1. However, there is some evidence that autism is going undiagnosed in girls, particularly those who are at the higher functioning end of the spectrum.
There is discussion around whether girls and women with autism may display different symptoms to boys and men, and that the current diagnostic criteria may be biased towards boys and stereotypical male behavior. Girls and women may also be better able to mask difficulties with social interactions than boys, and this may delay a diagnosis. New diagnostic criteria may be needed to assess ASD in girls and women. Past theories, including controversies such as the extreme male brain, may have led to under-referral and under-diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in girls and women.
Signs that a girl may have autism include:
- Difficulties with social interactions however, differences from typical autism symptoms may include:
- Better grasp of emotions and ability to make friends than boys
- May mask lack of intuitive understanding of social situations by repeating role-plays seen in real life or film/television
- May be able to make friends but find difficulty keeping them
Signs Of Nonverbal Communication Difficulties
- Avoids eye contact.
- Uses facial expressions that dont match what they are saying
- Doesnt pick up on other peoples facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures.
- Makes very few gestures . May come across as cold or robot-like.
- Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises. Can also be unresponsive to people entering/leaving, as well as efforts by others to attract the childs attention.
- Atypical posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving .
Children with autism spectrum disorder have trouble picking up on subtle nonverbal cues and using body language. This makes the give-and-take of social interaction very difficult.
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Signs Of Autism In Babies
Some parents recognize autism signs when their child is 6-12 months old, depending on the symptoms and their severity. Pay attention to whether or not the baby is reacting to social information and the environment. Within the first year of life, babies start to babble and use gestures like pointing, says Dr. Frazier, adding that babies may also smile at their caregivers. Baby noises should have some social function as well, and they should try communicating with parents. Babies with autism sometimes fail to communicate through sounds or gestures, and may not respond to social stimulation.
Here are other early signs of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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Limited Or No Response To Their Name
At 6 months , most infants show an awareness of their own names, especially when its spoken by their mother.
Autistic infants show a developmental difference: By 9 months, many babies who later develop ASD dont orient to their own names. say this usually appears as a pattern of nonresponse, rather than a single instance.
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