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
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms. Every individual on the autism spectrum has problems to some degree with social interaction, empathy, communication, and flexible behavior. But the level of disability and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously from person to person. In fact, two kids with the same diagnosis may look very different when it comes to their behaviors and abilities.
If youre a parent dealing with a child on the autism spectrum, you may hear many different terms including high-functioning autism, atypical autism, autism spectrum disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. These terms can be confusing, not only because there are so many, but because doctors, therapists, and other parents may use them in dissimilar ways.
But no matter what doctors, teachers, and other specialists call the autism spectrum disorder, its your childs unique needs that are truly important. No diagnostic label can tell you exactly what challenges your child will have. Finding treatment that addresses your childs needs, rather than focusing on what to call the problem, is the most helpful thing you can do. You dont need a diagnosis to start getting help for your childs symptoms.
Whats in a name?
What Happens During An Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening
There is no special test for ASD. Screening usually includes:
- A questionnaire for parents that asks for information about their child’s development and behavior.
- Observation. Your child’s provider will look at how your child plays and interacts with others.
- Tests that ask your child to perform tasks that check their thinking skills and ability to make decisions.
Sometimes a physical problem can cause autism-like symptoms. So screening may also include:
- Blood tests to check for lead poisoning and other disorders
- Hearing tests. A hearing problem can cause problems in language skills and social interaction.
- Genetic tests. These tests look for inherited disorders such as Fragile X syndrome. Fragile X causes intellectual disabilities and symptoms similar to ASD. It most often affects boys.
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How Does It Work
The test is based on an algorithm that analyzes measurements of metabolitessmall molecules that are the result of a metabolic processin a blood sample to predict whether or not a person has ASD.
The researchers analyzed how accurate the algorithm is by comparing it to data collected from children with ASD who have one or more additional conditions, like allergies or a gastrointestinal disorder.
The model was able to identify 124 of 131 participants with ASD correctly, regardless of other conditions the patient might have, meaning its nearly 95% accurate.
What Are The Symptoms Of Autism
The early signs and symptoms of autism vary widely. Some children with ASD only have mild symptoms, and others have severe behavioral issues.
Toddlers usually like to interact with people and the environment they live in. Parents are typically the first to notice that their child is showing atypical behavior.
Every child on the autism spectrum experiences challenges in the following areas:
- restricted or repetitive behaviors
Early symptoms of ASD can include the following:
- developing language skills late
- not pointing at objects or people or wave goodbye
- not tracking people with their eyes
- showing a lack of responsiveness when their name is called
- not imitating facial expressions
Some individuals arent diagnosed until adulthood.
At present, theres no one official test for diagnosing autism. A parent or doctor may notice early indications of ASD in a young child, though a diagnosis would need to be confirmed.
If symptoms confirm it, a team of specialists and experts will usually make an official diagnosis of ASD. This could include a psychologist or neuropsychologist, a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist, and/or a psychiatrist.
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How Do Doctors Test For Autism
Usually, an autism diagnosis happens in early childhood. However, as symptoms widely differ, the condition can be challenging to diagnose. Some people may not receive a diagnosis until they are adults.
Currently, there is no official test to diagnose ASD. However, the following experts may be able to confirm this condition in people:
Below are some examples of the tests for autism:
Where To Test Your Child For Autism
If you suspect your child may have autism spectrum disorder, start by raising your concerns with your childs pediatrician. If your doctor determines that your child may be showing symptoms of autism, they will refer you to a specialist who treats children with autism spectrum disorder, such as a child psychiatrist or psychologist, pediatric neurologist, or developmental pediatrician, for an evaluation.
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How Is Asd Treated
One of the biggest challenges is finding the most effective form of treatment. The choices seem endless and differentiating one from another can be daunting. Parents often rely on therapists to direct and administer treatment, but many parents want to learn as much as possible so theyre in the best position to help their child. The most common treatments include applied behavioral analysis, relationship-building strategies, speech/language, and occupational therapy, counseling, and social skills groups.
To learn more, read our ASD Overview article.
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The Current Path To Asd Diagnosis Isnt Perfect
Autism diagnosis can be a lengthy and complicated process, Jennifer Twachtman-Bassett, MS, autism clinical specialist and program coordinator at Connecticut Childrens, tells Verywell.
It can also be difficult for medical providers to determine if a developmental delay is due to ASD or something else entirely.
It is not uncommon that there have been concerns about a child’s development from a reasonably young age, but that the actual diagnosis was only given later, after it became more apparent that the developmental delay is due to ASD, Hahn says. Due to these reasons, having some type of physiological test that can aid with the diagnosis process would be very helpful.
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What Behavioral Therapies Treat Autism Signs And Symptoms In Toddlers And Children
Behavioral therapy is the foundation for most treatment programs for children with autism. More than 30 years of research has shown the benefit of applied behavioral methods in improving communication, learning, adaptive behavior, and appropriate social behavior while reducing inappropriate behavior in children with autism. There is strong evidence that these interventions are most effective when started early, typically in the preschool years. A range of scientifically supported behavioral treatments has been developed that may be helpful for some children with autism. These are mainly based on the principles of applied behavior analysis.
Applied behavior analysis is designed to both correct behaviors and teach skills for dealing with specific situations. It is based on the principle of reinforcement: that behavior can be changed by rewarding desired behavior and removing reinforcement for unwanted behavior. The person will naturally repeat behaviors for which he or she is rewarded. This principle is applied in many different ways, such as discrete trial training, incidental teaching, errorless learning, and shaping and fading. Most treatment programs include a number of ABA therapies.
Why Testing Is Important To Your Child
Getting an Aspergers syndrome diagnosis can be a challenging ordeal. Kids with Aspergers are often misdiagnosed as having other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder . Some are overlooked, altogether.
Thats why testing tools are vital for helping doctors make an accurate analysis. They can give professionals a clear and in-depth look at your childs condition.
An accurate diagnosis can ensure kids receive prompt and helpful treatment. Research shows therapies that involve early intervention can help improve many symptoms of autism spectrum disorders.
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Where Can I Get Information About Support Groups And Counseling For Autism
Having a child diagnosed with autism can be a devastating experience for many parents and families. They may feel frustrated, confused, and afraid they may even “grieve” for their “normal child.”
Living with autism presents many new challenges for the person with autism and for his or her family and friends.
Parents of autistic children certainly have many worries. They wonder if their children will be able to achieve, if they will be able to be independent, and if they will be able to be happy and enjoy life. Parents also probably have many worries about how autism will affect them and their ability to live a normal life, that is, to care for their family and home, to hold a job, and to continue the friendships and activities they enjoy. Many people feel anxious and depressed. Some people feel angry and resentful others feel helpless and defeated.
For most people who have a child with autism, and even for some with autism themselves, talking about their feelings and concerns helps.
Friends and family members can be very supportive. They may be hesitant to offer support until they see how you are coping. Don’t wait for them to bring it up. If you want to talk about your concerns, let them know.
For information about support groups in the area for families with an autistic child, contact the following organizations:
What Is The Outlook For People With Autism Spectrum Disorder
In many cases, the symptoms of ASD become less pronounced as a child gets older. Parents of children with ASD may need to be flexible and ready to adjust treatment as needed for their child.
People with ASD may go on to live typical lives, but there is often need for continued services and support as they age. The needs depend on the severity of the symptoms. For most, it’s a lifelong condition that may require ongoing supports.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Through research, there has been much that has been learned about autism spectrum disorder over the past 20 years. There is ongoing active research on the causes of ASD, early detection and diagnosis, prevention and treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/29/2020.
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Diagnosis In Older Children And Adolescents
ASD symptoms in older children and adolescents who attend school are often first recognized by parents and teachers and then evaluated by the schools special education team. The schools team may perform an initial evaluation and then recommend these children visit their primary health care doctor or doctors who specialize in ASD for additional testing.
Parents may talk with these specialists about their childs social difficulties including problems with subtle communication. These subtle communication issues may include problems understanding tone of voice, facial expressions, or body language. Older children and adolescents may have trouble understanding figures of speech, humor, or sarcasm. Parents may also find that their child has trouble forming friendships with peers.
Challenging Behaviors In Autism
People with autism spectrum disorder may exhibit behaviors which put themselves at risk, cause difficulties for people around them or which are not socially acceptable.
Around 50 percent of people with autism engage in behavior that can cause themselves harm when they feel frustrated, overwhelmed or unwell. Such behaviors can include:
- Banging their head on walls or other objects
- Hitting themselves, e.g. hitting their head with their hands
- Poking themselves in the eye
- Pulling their hair
- Biting themselves
- Smearing feces
A person with autism who feels frustrated, overwhelmed or feeling unwell may also display physically aggressive behavior. This can include:
- Throwing objects
- Hitting, slapping or biting other people
- Pulling other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s hair
Some people with autism eat objects that are not edible, or keep the objects in their mouth, a behavior known as pica. It is the most common eating disorder found in people with autism spectrum disorder. People may eat anything, including dirt or soap.
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How Do Pediatricians Screen For Autism
Primary healthcare providers generally have regular contact with your children before they turn school age.
Your childs pediatrician will start to screen your child for developmental and communication challenges such as ASD at their first visit.
Here, the pediatrician will be looking at the behavior of your child, seeing if they smile, giggle, babble, or try to get the pediatricians attention.
Certain behaviors like waving, responding to their name or crying are also examined.
After these observations, the pediatrician combines the information obtained from the parents like the family history, for instance, if the child has a sibling with ASD.
They get the opinions and observations of the parents and caregivers into consideration as well. This way they can determine whether the child is at risk for autism spectrum disorders.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for ASD at their well-baby visits at ages of 18 and 24-month.
This will provide regular surveillance and screening of the child to determine whether or not the child has any significant developmental and behavioral challenges early on.
This surveillance should be applied to all children, whether or not they are at risk for ASD or not.
Barriers To Sports For People With Autism
In addition to below-average motor skills, many people with autism may have other problems that keep them from getting enough exercise, joining a soccer league or playing pick-up basketball in the neighborhood. Safety can be one such barrier. According to research by the Interactive Autism Network, nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorders wander or run away, and half of those go missing.15 Parents and caregivers may keep a child who wanders indoors more often to protect him or her.
Some families, in fact, go to tremendous lengths to keep their children with autism both physically active and safe.
Kimberly Kuiken’s house near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has a six-foot fence around the yard. When her son with autism was young, he liked to run away, and she hoped the fence would keep him safe. One day she looked away for a moment and when she looked back, Jack had climbed halfway up the fence. He liked to jump from high places, she said, because he craved the sensory pressure of his feet hitting the ground.
“For years we had to keep him inside because he was such a danger to go outside. I had a lot of guilt because I couldn’t chase him all the time,” said Mrs. Kuiken, who participated in the Simons Simplex Collection autism research project.
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Related Signs And Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
While not part of autisms official diagnostic criteria, children with autism spectrum disorders often suffer from one or more of the following problems:
Sensory problems Many children with autism spectrum disorders either underreact or overreact to sensory stimuli. At times they may ignore people speaking to them, even to the point of appearing deaf. However, at other times they may be disturbed by even the softest sounds. Sudden noises such as a ringing telephone can be upsetting, and they may respond by covering their ears and making repetitive noises to drown out the offending sound. Children on the autism spectrum also tend to be highly sensitive to touch and to texture. They may cringe at a pat on the back or the feel of certain fabric against their skin.
Emotional difficulties Children with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty regulating their emotions or expressing them appropriately. For instance, your child may start to yell, cry, or laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. When stressed, they may exhibit disruptive or even aggressive behavior . The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities also notes that kids with ASD may be unfazed by real dangers like moving vehicles or heights, yet be terrified of harmless objects such as a stuffed animal.
Savant skills in autism spectrum disorder
Should I Get My Child Assessed
You should get your child assessed for ASD if:
- you have concerns
- you notice any signs or symptoms
- your child has a close relative with ASD
Normally, your health care provider will test your child first. You can help your health care provider understand the unusual behaviour you see by:
- taking photographs
- maintaining logs or diaries
- capturing these behaviours on video
If there are concerns, then your health care provider should refer you to a specialist for more tests. A specialist is the best person to help diagnose your child.
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How Can A Physical Therapist Help
Physical therapists have unique training in child development and motor control. This expertise allows them to assess a child’s motor delays and functional performance. Physical therapists work with your child, the family, and your child’s school to help them:
- Engage and improve in daily routines at home and school.
- Acquire new movement skills.
- Develop better coordination and a more stable posture.
- Improve play skills, such as throwing and catching a ball with another person.
- Develop motor imitation skills .
- Increase fitness and stamina.
A physical therapist will evaluate your child thoroughly. This will include taking a health and developmental history. Your child’s physical therapist also will assess:
- Postural strength and control.
- Functional mobility .
- Body and safety awareness.
- Ability to change between different activities.
- How your child jumps, hops, pedals a tricycle or bicycle, and skips.
- Daily routines in the home, community, and school.