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.
Reasons Why Autism Diagnosis Is Delayed
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder , is a brain disorder that is usually diagnosed in childhood. This developmental disability is characterized by social, behavioral, and communication challenges. Symptoms vary greatly from child to child, but common signs of autism are limited eye contact, lack of facial expression, and making repetitive movements.
Autism diagnoses have risen dramatically over the years. Currently, about 1 in 59 children have autism spectrum disorder. Early diagnosis of ASD can help parents seek out support and social skills training for their child. However, many kids experience delayed diagnosis.
About 85% of children with autism had notations in their records about developmental issues before age 3. Yet only about 42% of children with autism received a comprehensive developmental evaluation necessary for diagnosis by age 3. Almost 40% of children with autism were not diagnosed until after age 4.
There are many reasons why children are not diagnosed as early as they could be. One of them is that autism is challenging to diagnose. There are no medical tests such as a blood test that can definitively confirm an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
Development Of Infants With Early Signs Of Autism
While your baby is growing up, you may wonder if they are developing as they should. There are certain developmental milestones children hit as they grow up.
It is important to keep an eye out for these so that you can see if your child is behind on their development.
- smile at people
- try to look at their parents
- turn their head towards sound
If you notice that your baby is not engaging in such activities, you may want to get your child tested for ASD.
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Can You Detect Autism In Newborns
Autism spectrum disorder can be identified in babies as young as two months old. Although subtle signs can be missed if not observed closely, there are certain red flags.
Caregivers should observe the developmental milestones of their children to be able to detect early signs of autism. Parents should be aware of the eye contact of the newborns and follow the development.
From birth, all babies will look more at the eye part of faces. According to studies conducted with babies with eye-tracking technology, lack of eye contact is one of the signs that the newborn may have autism.
The following are some of the other signs seen in newborns as they grow older.
What Kind Of Doctor Can Diagnose Autism In Adults
If you think you may have ASD, ask your healthcare provider to recommend a psychiatrist who regularly works with people with autism. Some developmental pediatricians, child psychologists and pediatric neurologists will also evaluate adults. Or, contact an autism treatment center and ask for a referral.
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Excessive Interest In Particular Objects Or Activities
Babies readily shift their attention between people and objects creating opportunities to learn from social interaction.
Babies with autism may show excessive interest in particular objects or activities and can get stuck or overly focused on these.
This interest may be so intense that its difficult to shift their attention away from an object of interest to something else.
An intense interest can lead to skills that are advanced for their age, such as building with blocks, or learning the shapes of letters and numbers, and can be missed as a sign of autism.
If your child shows excessive interest in particular objects or activities, this may be an early sign of autism.
What Are Patterns Of Behavior With Autism
Children with ASD also act in ways that seem unusual or have interests that arenât typical, including:
- Repetitive behaviors like hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling
- Constant moving and âhyperâ behavior
- Fixations on certain activities or objects
- Specific routines or rituals
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
- Not taking part in âmake-believeâ play or imitating othersâ behaviors
- Fussy eating habits
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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.”
Unusual Reaction To Sounds Sights Or Textures
Babies with autism can show unusual reactions or be very sensitive to certain sounds, sights, or textures. They may get overly excited about a page in a book or hold their hands over their ears in response to loud sounds, squint or flap their hands to certain lights, gag when they eat food with certain textures, or get upset about a tag in a shirt or something sticky or gooey.
If your child shows unusual reactions to sounds, sights, or textures, this may be an early sign of autism.
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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.
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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Developmental Evaluation And Testing
During this evaluation, the physician takes into account the parents reports, the developmental screening, psychological testing, and speech and language testing. Sometimes neurological and genetic testing can help rule out other disorders.
Getting a medical diagnosis is the first step to accessing services and support for your child through health insurance.
Signs Of Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome are generally considered to be on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum. It is still a form of autism and is a lifelong condition.
Signs and symptoms that are typical of people with Asperger syndrome include:
- Very narrow and highly focused interests
- Great importance on rules and routines
- High standard of language skills, potentially very formal in expression
- Monotonous or repetitive speech
- Making the same noise repeatedly
These behaviors provide the person with a form of sensory input that the person finds appealing or helpful. There are various reasons why someone could be engaging in self-stimulatory behavior:
- They find it enjoyable
- It provides something to focus on, thereby reducing the effects of other, nearby stimuli
- It is soothing and helps with anxiety
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Comparing Cma With Other Tests
The researchers compared the results of the three tests in more than 800 patients. Among the findings:
- The standard genetic test known as G-banded karyotype testing found abnormal results in 19 of 852 patients, or about 2%.
- The fragile X testing found abnormalities in four of 861patients, or about 0.5%.
- The CMA test found abnormalities in 154 of 848 patients, or about 18% 59 of these, or about 7%, were associated with possible or known genetic disorders.
Karyotype testing is looking for changes visible by the microscope, Wu, a clinical molecular geneticist, tells WebMD. CMA is looking at the molecular level.
Wu and co-researcher Yiping Shen, PhD, assistant director of the genetics diagnostic laboratory, compare karyotype testing to a map that can detect a highway thats missing in a state, and CMA testing to a map that can detect individual highway exits that are missing.
In the study, Shen and his colleagues say that CMA should be considered as part of the initial diagnostic evaluation of patients with ASD.
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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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
Advances Lower Average Diagnostic Age
The possibility of a child being diagnosed with ASD at a young age and having that diagnosis overturned is low, while the possibility of an overlooked diagnosis is much higher. Parents concerned that their child has been misdiagnosed with ASD can always seek a second opinion or they can have the child re-evaluated after a few months.
But parents who disregard early symptoms could be limiting their childs ability to progress, learn, interact with peers, and thrive. The opportunity for early intervention ABA therapy will equip them with the tools and knowledge to thrive alongside their peers instead of lagging behind.
For this reason, parents are urged to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation and have their child screened around 18 to 24 months. If they do not, they should still closely observe their childs behaviors in preschool, during play, and when interacting with peers for signs of possible ASD.
Early diagnosis and intervention is crucial for helping the child develop skills that can help them lead a fulfilling life, and it can help parents provide the proper care. Therapeutic Pathways uses evidence-based and results-driven ABA therapy to help children with autism thrive while building skills in communication, self-help, social skills, language and speech skills, behavior management and more.
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Is An Early Diagnosis More Likely To Be Incorrect
Multiple studies have confirmed that autism can be reliably diagnosed by age two with little risk of that diagnosis being invalidated later. Though early diagnoses may require a more definite diagnosis as the child grows older.
A 2006 study found that if children with autism were diagnosed at age two, that diagnosis was very likely to remain consistent by age nine.
However, the study noted that diagnostic stability was less reliable for children whose autism involved less severe presentations, meeting the older definition of PDD-NOS. This conclusion means that children with more typical presentations or who did not outwardly display multiple diagnostic criteria were more likely to affect how soon a child would be diagnosed with autism or have a missed diagnosis.
While medical knowledge has improved in the 14 years since that study was published, it is still possible for a child to delay presentation of ASD until age five or later.
One major factor that can prevent a missed diagnosis is input from parents. Because parents can observe some of the subtler signs or pervasive patterns that a single diagnostic test might miss, clinicians can perform a more thorough diagnosis or re-evaluate as the child ages.
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
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Early Signs Of Autism In A 5 Year Old
Once your toddler grows up, certain signs can be missed or confused with signs of growing up. You may want to consult your childs doctor if you see the following signs, which may mean your child has a developmental delay:
- Shows extreme behaviors like unusually aggressive, shy, or sad
- Doesnt show a wide range of emotions
- Usually isnt active
- Has trouble focusing on one activity for extended periods of time
- Doesnt respond to people
- Cant understand the difference between real and make-believe
- Doesnt play with peers
- Doesnt use grammar correctly
- Doesnt talk about daily activities
- Loses skills they once had
Available By Years End
The researchers compared plasma metabolites from 516 children with ASD with those from 164 age-matched, typically developing children recruited into the Childrens Autism Metabolome Project, a large-scale effort to define autism biomarkers on the basis of metabolomic analyses of blood samples from young children.
From these results, the researchers were able to stratify children with ASD into subpopulations on the basis of shared metabolic signatures. Imbalances in glutamine, glycine, and ornithine, along with low levels of branched-chain amino acids , allowed identification of three ASD-associated amino acid dysregulation metabotypes .
The combination of these three AADMs were present in 16.7% of the children with ASD and were detectable with a specificity of 96.3% and a positive predictive value of 93.5%.
Efforts are being made to have an initial test out by the end of the year, Amaral told Medscape Medical News.
He said it is unlikely that a single biomarker will detect all cases of autism. We are currently looking at other metabolites that distinguish other subsets of children with autism. The goal would be to have a collection of diagnostic panels that would identify a much large sample of children at risk for autism, said Amaral.
The authors note that BCAA supplementation or high-protein diet has been used in mouse models and in people with branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase deficiency to reduce ASD symptoms and improve cognitive function.
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Etiology And Risk Factors
The etiology of ASD is not completely understood, though recent findings suggest an interplay among genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors . Strong risk factors for ASD include male sex and positive family history. Recurrence risk estimates for younger siblings of children with ASD range from 7% to 19% versus 1.5% in the general population . Recurrence varies by degree of familial relatedness. One recent Swedish study indicated a tenfold increase in relative risk when a full sibling has been diagnosed with ASD, as compared with a twofold increase when a cousin is affected . Other risk factors are summarized in Table 2. The mechanisms associated with environmental exposure and ASD may include inflammation, oxidative stress, endocrine disruption and may be influenced by gene-related effects .
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.
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