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.
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?
Signs And Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have much to learn about these causes and how they impact people with ASD.
There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people. They may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly. For example, some people with ASD may have advanced conversation skills whereas others may be nonverbal. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives others can work and live with little to no support.
ASD begins before the age of 3 years and can last throughout a persons life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children show ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD gain new skills and meet developmental milestones, until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.
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Suggestion #: Be Observant About Other Factors That Impact Treatment Outcome
There are countless other factors that interfere with the measurement of the true effectiveness of an intervention. For instance:
- A child may like or dislike the teacher, doctor, or therapist providing an intervention. Similarly, their parents may like or dislike a care provider, and their attitude may impact the child’s cooperation and outcome. Imagine a program that seems to help when Suzie, a sweet, empathetic OT, is the therapist, but doesn’t work at all when Liz, a gruff, irritable OT, performs the same therapeutic steps.
- Starting a new treatment may increase parents’ hope and decrease anxiety, such that a mother and father get along better and deal with their child more consistently. The child may start having fewer tantrums, but this may be due to the parents’ change in behavior, not to the treatment itself.
- Who gives information on a survey or checklist often provides a very different picture of a childs status. Perspectives of mothers, fathers, and teachers may differ substantially from one another.
All these factors have the potential to mask the true effectiveness of a treatment or intervention.
Autism And Understanding The Emotions Of Other People
An autistic person may find it hard to understand the emotions of other people. Emotions are interpreted by subtle messages sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language. These are often missed or misinterpreted by an autistic person. Because of this, autistic people might be mistakenly perceived as being rude or unfeeling. Autistic people may find it difficult to understand how others perceive their behaviour.
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What Does An Autism Diagnosis Mean For My Child
An autism diagnosis can result in some beneficial effects, but also comes with associated risks, disadvantages, and contraindications. Once your child is diagnosed with autism, you can expect your doctor to devise a specific treatment plan, comprised of therapy and/or medication to help your child function more easily in daily life. You can also seek specific guidance and support for your child to thrive at school. Despite these benefits, a diagnosis of autism also come with the risk of social stigmatization for the child. There is also a range of physical and mental-health conditions that frequently accompany autism including but not limited to: gastrointestinal problems, epilepsy, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
What Is A Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that people can experience a wide range of symptoms and of varying severities. For example, a person with autism who is towards the high functioning range of the spectrum will have a good grasp of language, but a person towards the low functioning range of the spectrum may not speak at all.
As such, it is important to note that a person with autism spectrum disorder will not display all symptoms and symptoms will vary in severity. However, a person with ASD will display several of these behaviors and signs.
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How Parents Can Spot The Warning Signs
As a parent, youre in the best position to spot the earliest warning signs of autism. You know your child better than anyone and observe behaviors and quirks that a pediatrician, in a quick fifteen-minute visit, might not have the chance to see. Your childs pediatrician can be a valuable partner, but dont discount the importance of your own observations and experience. The key is to educate yourself so you know whats typical and whats not.
Monitor your childs development. Autism involves a variety of developmental delays, so keeping a close eye on whenor ifyour child is hitting the key social, emotional, and cognitive milestones is an effective way to spot the problem early on. While developmental delays dont automatically point to autism, they may indicate a heightened risk.
Take action if youre concerned. Every child develops at a different pace, so you dont need to panic if your child is a little late to talk or walk. When it comes to healthy development, theres a wide range of typical. But if your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or you suspect a problem, share your concerns with your childs doctor immediately. Dont wait.
Regression of any kind is a serious autism warning sign
Can You Be A Little Autistic
No, there is no such thing as being a little autistic. Many people may show some characteristics of autism from time to time. This may include avoiding bright lights and noises, preferring to be alone and being rigid about rules. This does not make them autistic.
However, a person can be mildly autistic. Mildly autistic people are unable to understand the body language or emotions of the people around them. However, they have normal intelligence and can carry their day-to-day activities.
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Knowing What Works: Becoming A Better Advocate
Families know their children better than anybody else. They know their strengths and their challenges. They know their “up-and-down” cycles. They know how they behave differently with different people or at different times of year. This parental insight, combined with an awareness of the pitfalls of treatment evaluation outlined here, will make you the best judge of how a new treatment is impacting your child. Such awareness will also better equip you to evaluate treatment outcome research and the claims of those marketing autism treatments.
What Can Mimic Autism
Developmental delays such as language, speech, or hearing problems can often be mistaken for autism. There are also a number of specific disorders that are characterized by similar behavioral symptoms to autism. According to the Autism Research Institute, Williams Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, are all closely related to autism.
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Social Communication And Interaction Skills
Social communication and interaction skills can be challenging for people with ASD.
Examples of social communication and social interaction characteristics related to ASD can include:
- Avoids or does not keep eye contact
- Does not respond to name by 9 months of age
- Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age
- Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
- Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age
- Does not share interests with others
- Does not point or look at what you point to by 18 months of age
- Does not notice when others are hurt or sad by 24 months of age
- Does not pretend in play
- Shows little interest in peers
- Has trouble understanding other peoples feelings or talking about own feelings at 36 months of age or older
- Does not play games with turn taking by 60 months of age
He Lacks Social Skills
When people are on the autism spectrum, they have many challenges when it comes to social situations. They may avoid eye contact, talk about inappropriate topics, and have difficulty understanding the gestures, body language, and facial expressions of others.
People with ASD may avoid group events as much as possible because they have trouble making small talk and not knowing when people are teasing.
Elizabeth Laugeson, PsyD said in an American Psychological Association podcast,
“I think difficulty with conversational skills, for example, makes it very, very difficult to develop meaningful and close relationships with people, whether they be friendships or romantic relationships. And difficulty picking up on social cues and understanding the perspectives of others, knowing how someone might actually react to something that we say or something we do. That sort of difficulty makes it really challenging for people with autism to develop these relationships.”
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Signs Of Social Difficulties
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or whats going on around them.
- Doesnt know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
- Doesnt play pretend games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
- Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them.
- Doesnt seem to hear when others talk to them.
- Doesnt share interests or achievements with others .
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.
Suggestion #: Keep Other Time Effects In Mind
Time of day, month, or year can impact how a person is doing, and so can warp measures of treatment effectiveness. The dark days of winter can lead some people to feel much more depressed or unable to cope, as can the misery of springtime allergies. For example, irritability associated with some women’s menstrual cycles may impact the effectiveness of a treatment given at a certain time. Many children with behavior problems or issues of mood and attention may find the beginning of school, or a return to school after winter holidays, stressful.
A new treatment started during a child’s bleak winter mood and right after the holiday break might not appear as effective as the same treatment started during the summer. Timing of an intervention can interfere with our assessment of true treatment effects.
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If You Find It Hard To Get Diagnosed
It’s not always easy to get an autism assessment. Waiting times can also be very long.
If you’re finding it hard to get an assessment, you could ask to speak to someone else, like another GP this is called getting a second opinion.
It may also help to speak to other people who have been in a similar situation.
He Rarely Gives Declarations Of Love
It isn’t that they don’t love you they just don’t understand why they need to repeat it over and over again. Besides, actions speak louder than words, and they’re sure you’d know by the way they act toward you that they love you. They’d tell you if their feelings had changed, as they have no problem being brutally honest.
“Studies have shown that people with autism can have feelings that are stronger and deeper than those without autism,” said John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye. “Yet those feelings may be invisible to outsiders because we don’t show them. Because we don’t show them or the expected response, people make the wrong assumption about our depth of feeling about other people.”
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Signs That Your Baby May Have Autism
Most of these are that would show up between the 6 months to 1 year range. Before that, many of these may not show up at all. It is also important to know that any one of these traits on its own is not a diagnosis. If your child is showing a number of these traits over the 6 month period, it is always good to see a doctor for assessment. Early diagnosis and treatment can really make a difference in skills building later on. Again this list should not be considered a diagnosis, only used as a tool to start a conversation with your doctor who can then start a proper assessment process.
Autism Signs And Characteristics: Checklist For Adults
If you think you may be on the autism spectrum or you know, love, or work with an adult who you feel might have autism, the following information will help you to better understand the common signs and characteristics relating to adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder .
Many adults may demonstrate the signs or characteristics of autism, but may not have been assessed or diagnosed for a number of reasons, these could include:
- The signs or characteristics are not obvious to those around them.
- People around them are not aware of the signs or characteristics of autism.
- The signs and characteristics do not have a significant impact on the individual, or limit their everyday functioning.
- The person has learnt strategies to support their challenges including masking or camouflaging signs.
- The financial and emotional cost of an assessment.
- Another diagnosis that could account for some of the signs and characteristics demonstrated
- The person self-identifies as autistic, but does not see the benefits of having a formal assessment
- The person does not want a formal diagnosis.
Many adults who demonstrate the behaviours of autism, and are not formally diagnosed, learn to cope with life perfectly well. They might develop meaningful relationships, have satisfying careers, or live an excellent quality of life that satisfies them.
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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.