Why Monitoring Developmental Milestones For Autism Can Be Misleading
Sometimes, children with autism miss multiple milestones and have clear and obvious developmental delays. Often, however, missed milestones can be masked or even invisible. This is because children with autism aren’t simply delayed they learn and behave differently from their typical peers.
In addition, autism is rarely obvious from birth. Many children with autism develop normally for a period of time and then either slow down, develop idiosyncratically, or actually regress. Because of these issues, it can be tough to spot autism just by watching for missed developmental milestones.
Talking About Your Child With Autism
Just a kid.
Say hi. Dont just ignore a child with autism, even if they are nonverbal, or dont reciprocate. It may take many more times before they learn to reciprocate. Using social greetings appropriately and at the right time is a skill set, and it may take them longer to gain those skills. Try not to give up too soon.
Talk to them. It may be more difficult to process information, and short and simple phrasing may be better, but continue to make the effort to talk to a child with autism so that they hear and see language in action.
Talk with your hands. Some children who struggle with verbal communication use formal sign language to bridge the gap while they are learning to talk. But beyond that, and for all individuals with and without autism, visual supports and gestures can be used help to clarify verbal information. We all use our hands to gesture when we give directions or describe something, to support our words, and these additional visual cues can help.
Use correct grammar. A child with autism who struggles with language still benefits from hearing many models of correct grammar and language sequencing. In fact, some may demonstrate relative strengths in imitation of your phrases and sentences, and so it is best if they are simple but intact grammatical utterances.
Is Nonverbal Autism Connected To Low Iq
Until very recently, people believed that nonverbal children with autism were intelelctually disabled. This was due to the fact that the IQ scores of nonverbal autistic children fell under 70. However, it has become clear that the traditional and typical IQ tests are not the best tools when it comes to measuring intellectual ability in autistic children.
There are many reasons as to why it may not be a good idea to test intellectual abilities of children with autism with typical IQ tests, especially when the child is nonverbal. Since IQ tests mainly depend on the test takers ability to quickly understand and respond to verbal information, nonverbal autistic individuals may not be able to perform very well due to obvious challenges they face with regards to the disorder.
In addition, sensory issues can become overwhelming for individuals with autism. These may distract the nonverbal autistic child during the test. Another challenging matter is that the test takers that are nonverbal autistic children cannot let others know about these sensory overload issues they face.
Individuals with typical development do not often get trained to work with special needs individuals, especially nonverbal autistic children. They dont know how to engage the child or they may not know how to read to them. This will cause the child to not reach and present their highest intellectual potential.
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How To Communicate With A Nonverbal Autistic Child
There are an abundance of ways to help promote communication with your nonverbal autistic child.
They dont replace speech therapy or other interventions that are uniquely designed to the needs of your child. But they can be a great support at home, things that you can do to establish communication with your child.
Talk: Keep talking with your child. Describe things to them. Include them in conversations and dont leave them out as if they are not there. Your child will still be able to learn from this action.
Use simple language: Refrain from using sentences with a lot of words in them. Try to use one or two word sentences. Once your child can use one word phrases, you can move into using two phrase sentences to give them direction or describe something. This will help them improve without overwhelming them.
Make the most of playtime: Play is an amazing tool to both entertain and practice with children. While playing, you can have the opportunity for communication. While playing with toys, you can encourage imitation. You can also involve fun activities like singing or dancing so as to foster social interaction.
Go different ways: Nonverbal children with autism may express their emotions through some other ways than speaking, like dancing, art, hand movements, and body movements. You can try to help them express themselves better through activities like finger painting or sensory activities.
How To Tell Your Child They Have Autism
Experts share their best advice on why, when and how to talk to kids about their autism diagnosis.
Raelene Dundon will never forget the day she realized it was time to tell her preschool son he was autistic.* When they were visiting her eldest sons classroom for story time, some of the students noticed that the younger boy seemed similar to their autistic classmate and told Dundons eldest that his brother had autism. I suddenly thought, I dont want other people to know if he doesnt know. I need to do something about this, recalls Dundon, an educational and developmental psychologist who works with children and their families. She knew shed have to tell her child he has autism.
After getting tips from others who had been through the process, thats what she did. She went on to share what she learned with the families she was working with, and eventually turned her tips into a book called Talking with Your Child about Their Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for Parents.
Parents often are quite anxious about how or when to tell their kids, and that sometimes stops them, when its actually better to have the conversation as soon as possible, says Dundon, who is director of Okey Dokey Childhood Therapy in Melbourne, Australia.
While every child and situation is different, Dundon and other experts say there are some universal best practices when disclosing a diagnosis to a child.
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What Are The Developmental Milestones
The CDC divides developmental milestones into groups: movement/physical, cognitive, language/communication, social/emotional. They list specific levels of achievement for each age, starting with 1 month and moving through adolescence. While they make it clear that children may not reach any given milestone at the precise age described, they also suggest that parents keep an eye out to be sure their child is at or close to normal.
Most children with autism are diagnosed at a relatively young ageoften by the age of 3. Here is a simplified list of milestones for 3-year-olds from the CDC:
What Does A Speech Delay Look Like
Children are individuals, and they develop at their own rates. Some simply talk earlier than others do, while others hang back. If your child can’t keep up with a chatty neighbor, you might be worried, but your fears are likely to be minor. Speech delays are different.
Experts explain that there are two main types of speech delays:
- Developmental: A child like this is following a typical speech development pattern, but the child is just moving slower than peers typically do.
- A child like this has a motor disorder that impedes the ability to make meaningful sounds. They may understand speech, and they often have plenty to say, but they can’t make the words come out.
Children with autism can have one or both forms of speech delays. Often, the differences are severe. When placed in a room with children developing on schedule, children with autism can seem remarkably quiet and non-communicative. Their issues are hard to ignore.
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Questions You Will Probably Answer To At The Pediatricians
Pediatricians are the first step in the diagnosis. You will come across the following question when you visit your childs pediatrician:
- Did your baby smile by 6 months?
- Did he mimic sounds and facial expressions by 9 months?
- Was he babbling and cooing by 12 months?
- Does he have trouble making eye contact?
- Does he interact with people and share experiences?
- Does he respond when someone tries to get his attention?
- Is his tone of voice flat?
- Does he understand other peoples actions?
- Is he sensitive to light, noise, or temperature?
- Any problems with sleep or digestion?
- Does he tend to get annoyed or angry?
If your answer was yes to majority of these questions, you should be prepared for the possibility that your child might be autistic.
Tip Two: Imitate Your Child
Repeating your child’s sounds and positive behaviors will encourage your child to hear or process, if not, attempt to mimic or vocalize your words and reactions. This may eventually lead to your child copying you and learning to take turns, which teaches conversational skills.
As long as your child is behaving in a positive way, don’t hesitate to mimic your child even if the sounds are not typical or standard words. If your child taps a drum, do the same while vocalizing the word. But if your child throws a toy car instead of rolls it, don’t imitate that.
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Can Non Verbal Autistic Children Understand What I Am Saying
While every child with autism is different, most non verbal autistic children will understand perfectly what you are saying and how you feel about them. Never treat them all the same. Take the time to learn the common autism traits but never assume that because you know one child with autism, that they are all the same. Autism is on a vast spectrum.
While they may find it difficult to formulate a response that you understand or demonstrate behaviours like rocking or stimming, they often have high functioning minds.
Be patient and remember that not being able to communicate effectively can be extremely frustrating.
Is Late Speech A Sign Of Autism
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Speech delays are very common among children with autism, but they are also common in children without autism. There are, however, very real differences between autistic speech delays and other types of delays. In many cases, these differences are evident even to non-experts.
Significant speech delays are always a cause for some concern, but they are by no means always a sign of autism.
Verywell / Hugo Lin
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Good News For Late Talkers: More Children With Autism Learn To Speak Than Previously Believed
Like many specialists, Ericka L. Wodka, Ph.D., has met with concerned parents who want to know one thing in particular: when, or if, their child with autism will speak.
She looked to research studies for guidance, but “I wasn’t getting my questions answered,” she said. So she launched her own study using data from the Simons Simplex Collection . The SSC includes 2,600 families who each have only one member a child with ASD.
In the largest study of the subject to date, her research team found that most young children with ASD and severe language delay developed “phrase or fluent” speech by age 8, with almost half achieving fluent speech. These findings suggest that a greater percentage of children with autism “may be capable of attaining phrase speech than previously reported.”1
Phrase speech means a child will use a two-word statement appropriately, such as “want cookie,” when he desires a snack, said Dr. Wodka, a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Her team studied 535 children from the SSC with ASD and a history of severe language delay, which was defined as being nonverbal or “not putting words together into meaningful phrases by age 4.” By age 8, 70 percent had phrase speech and 47 percent were fluent speakers.1
Prenatal Factors That May Contribute To Autism
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months.
Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid.
The age of the mother and father
Complications at or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight and neonatal anemia
Maternal infections during pregnancy.
Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, while pregnant.
More research on these prenatal risk factors is needed, but if youre pregnant or trying to conceive, it cant hurt to take steps now to reduce your babys risk of autism.
Reducing the risk of autism: Tips for expectant mothers
Take a multivitamin. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Its not clear whether this will also help reduce risk of autism, but taking the vitamins cant hurt.
Ask about SSRIs. Women who are taking an SSRI should talk with a clinician about all the risks and benefits of these drugs. Untreated depression in a mother can also affect her childs well-being later on, so this is not a simple decision to make.
Practice prenatal care. Eating nutritious food, trying to avoid infections, and seeing a clinician for regular check-ups can increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy child.
Source: Harvard Health Publications
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Are There Specific Therapies That Can Help Non Verbal Autism
Behavioural therapy and speech therapy can be very useful in helping to teach kids with autism develop some communication, speech and language skills.
Over time, some autistic children will develop some simple forms of speech.
However, sometimes autistic children will learn other methods of communication and will never speak. Visual aids or assistive technologies can be incredible tools to help non verbal autistic children communicate.
Alternative and Augmentative Communication approaches can be used to help communication skills.
- Picture based systems- like pictures, books and boards. This is called Picture Exchange Communication
- Speech generating devices . Missouri Assistive Technology explains that these range from simple, single message devices with less than a minute of speech to highly complex, computer-based systems capable of generating virtually unlimited numbers of messages.
Some SGDs use recorded human speech.
Others use computer-generated speech and some of those have text-to-speech capacity .
- Other assistive technology such as portable word processors can help written communication
Many autistic children find that wearing noise cancelling headphones is helpful in reducing over excessive auditory stimulation.
Autism speaks suggests that through play at home and therapy, many children after the age of 4 may eventually develop language. Activities that will help include:
Engage in play and activity at the childs eye level.
Why Should I Tell My Child They Have Autism
If you dont tell your child they have autism, theres a good chance someone else will let it slip, or your child will eventually figure it out themselves, says Kelly Price, a registered psychologist who assesses children for autism in Victoria, B.C. This is particularly true if your child is participating in programs and receiving services for people with autism because the A-word is bound to come up, he adds. You dont want someone else to spill the beans before youve had the opportunity to describe it yourself, he says, adding that its unfair for parents to withhold information about their child from them when they reach a certain age, and their child may feel betrayed if they do so.
Dundon adds that kids may feel ashamed if they find out theyre autistic from someone other than their parents because it may seem like their parents were trying to hide it. She says its important for kids to know that theyre autistic because it helps them understand who they are, particularly in relation to their peers. Kids do sense that theyre different, and not helping them see why isnt okay, she says. It causes distress because they cant fit in, they dont know why things are difficult for them, they feel like theres something wrong with them. When they do find out, its like, Oh, that explains it. But Ive had all of these years of thinking that I was somehow less than my peers and that there was something wrong.
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How I Knew My Toddler Was Autistic
How did you know your child has autism? is the number one question asked of me since sharing Big As autism diagnosis. In person, but especially in messages, from acquaintances and strangers alike. Hey, I get it. Its not a question I wanted to ask aloud either. But paying attention to the early signs of autism Big A showed, helped us push for early autism testing.
No one wants to think that something is wrong with their child. I never knew how many expectations I had for Big A until we received this diagnosis-they were unspoken, unexamined, and frankly, they were ridiculous. Im beginning to learn that my expectations arent dashed, justdifferent.
So lets discuss this out here. Dont get me wrong, I love talking to you. Message me anytime, day or night. All Im saying is a diagnosis of autism is not something worth sidling up to me at the grocery store, eyes on the tile, mouth twisted to the side in a whisper. Its not worth sliding in my DMs about. I looked to an autism diagnosis with dread too. Now that its here, its not so bad. Lets chat.
Study Concludes Nonverbal May Not Be Permanent
Some parents of children with ASD have been told that if their child isn’t speaking by age 4 or 5, he or she isn’t likely to ever speak.
But in 2013, researchers countered this view with a study of 535 children with autism published in the journalPediatrics that concluded even those with severe language delaynot speaking at all or using only single words or phrases without verbsat age 4 could develop language skills during grade school or even adolescence. The results of the study determined that 70 percent of those children in the study attained communication of short phrases and 47 percent attained fluent speech at or after age 4.
Working with your child’s ABA Therapistwho can help you select and use the best communication strategiesyou can contribute daily to an effort that encourages your child’s language development.
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