Can A Child Be Slightly Autistic
A child could have mild symptoms of autism, but parents and guardians should still take proactive steps to seek a diagnosis.
When a child has autism spectrum disorder , caregivers can work with professionals to develop appropriate strategies in response. These strategies help children thrive in their environment through appropriate accommodations, therapy, and parent training.
While some children with autism may rarely encounter challenges related to their disorder, others may find that negative experiences increase as they get older. This can lead to unwanted stress, potentially up to the point of a crisis event. In extreme cases, a child could lose opportunities to advance in school or other life areas.
Understanding a childs needs is important. Individuals in their life should never brush away observations that a child might have a behavior disorder. Instead, they can educate themselves on the signs of ASD and look into the next best actions to take.
Causes And Risk Factors
While scientists dont know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others dont, some risk factors include:
- Having a sibling with ASD
- Having older parents
- Having certain genetic conditionspeople with conditions such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome are more likely than others to have ASD
- Very low birth weight
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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About Early Signs Of Autism
Some early signs of autism usually appear in the first 1-2 years of life.
Early signs of autism are listed below. Some children have many early signs, whereas others have only a few. The number of signs autistic children have varies according to their age and the effect that autism has on their everyday lives.
Sometimes early signs of autism change over time. For example, children might lose or stop using social-communication or language skills, or signs might become clearer as children get older.
What Are The Different Types Of Autism
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition is published by the American Psychiatric Association . Clinicians use it to diagnose a variety of psychiatric disorders.
The most recent fifth edition of the DSM was released in 2013. The DSM-5 currently recognizes five different ASD subtypes, or specifiers. They are:
- with or without accompanying intellectual impairment
- with or without accompanying language impairment
- associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor
- associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
Someone can receive a diagnosis of one or more specifiers.
Before the DSM-5, autistic people may have received a diagnosis of:
- autistic disorder
- pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified
- childhood disintegrative disorder
Its important to note that a person who received one of these earlier diagnoses hasnt lost their diagnosis and wont need to be reevaluated.
Symptoms of ASD typically become clearly evident during early childhood, between 12 and 24 months of age. However, symptoms may also appear earlier or later.
Early symptoms may include a marked delay in language or social development.
The DSM-5 divides symptoms of ASD into two categories: problems with communication and social interaction, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities.
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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
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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Communication Signs Of Autism In Children
We learned about my sons autism after begging our pediatrician for a speech therapy referral.
We knew he wasnt communicating like a typical child would, and we wanted to help him communicate to lower his frustrations.
See, autistic children often have significant communication struggles and delays, sometimes to the point of not speaking at all.
The first thing most people notice in autistic children is that they may not meet typical language milestones.
You may notice that your child often repeats quotes from books, songs, or movies that they have seen or heard.
My son used to quote the Tinkerbell Pirate Fairy movie constantly.
An autistic child may also struggle to begin or keep up with conversations.
Beginning a conversation takes several expressive language skills that many autistic kids struggle with, and keeping up with a 2-way conversation can be overwhelming and exhausting.
You might also notice that an autistic child may not respond to their name.
Sometimes this is because they are so engrossed in an activity that they block out other noises, and sometimes its because autistic children dont develop the same familiarity with their name that other children do.
Another common communication sign of autism in children is that they may seem completely unaware of the volume of their own voice.
A-Man is often yelling or whispering without realizing that hes doing it, or realizing how those different volumes affect those around him.
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.
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My Child Has Signs Of Autismnow What
If your child has signs of autism, Dr. Frazier advises scheduling a visit to your pediatrician right away. You’ll discuss developmental concerns, and the doctor will evaluate your baby for autism. “We have evidence that suggests the quicker you can get a diagnosis, the earlier you can enroll in developmental and behavioral interventions,” says Dr. Frazier.
Early intervention is meant help your baby cope with autism symptoms and possibly even reverse them. As your child gets older, intervention might include speech therapy, occupational therapy, mental health counseling, and whatever else experts believe will help your child thrive. The ultimate goal is “making the symptoms more manageable and enhancing life as much as possible,” says Dr. Silverman.
Communication: Early Signs Of Autism
In the first year of life, childrens social and communication development is an important area to watch for early signs of autism. Social and communication development includes things like learning to smile, make eye contact, and use gestures.
Social interaction and communicationIf young children are autistic, they might:
- not consistently use eye contact to get someones attention for example, they might not always look at you and then at a snack to show you they want it, or not look back towards you when they see something that excites them
- rarely point to or hold up objects to show you things for example, they might not point to a dog and look back at you to make sure youve seen it too, or they might drop a toy in your lap and walk away instead of holding it up and looking at you
- not consistently respond to their name being called
- not consistently use gestures on their own for example, they might not wave bye-bye or clap without being told to, or without copying someone else whos waving or clapping
- not consistently smile at you or other familiar people without you smiling at them first
- rarely copy other peoples actions, like combing their hair when you do it
- not sound like theyre having a conversation with you when they babble
- not understand simple, one-step instructions for example, Give me the block or Show me the dog.
Relationships and playIf young children are autistic, they might:
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What Is The Difference Between Autism And Autism Spectrum Disorder
The term autism was changed to autism spectrum disorder in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association. ASD is now an umbrella term that covers the following conditions:
- Autistic disorder.
- Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified .
- Asperger syndrome.
People with ASD have trouble with social interactions and with interpreting and using non-verbal and verbal communication in social contexts. Individuals with ASD may also have the following difficulties:
- Inflexible interests.
- Insistence on sameness in environment or routine.
- Repetitive motor and sensory behaviors, like flapping arms or rocking.
- Increased or decreased reactions to sensory stimuli.
How well someone with ASD can function in day-to-day life depends on the severity of their symptoms. Given that autism varies widely in severity and everyday impairment, the symptoms of some people arent always easily recognized.
Early Signs Of Autism In Babies
A lifelong condition, autism spectrum disorder can be diagnosed before the child turns two. Early diagnosis can make an enormous difference in their quality of life later on.
There are certain early signs that can be observed in a newborn if your child is on the spectrum. You can detect the first signs in your infant really early in their life.
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How Is Aspergers Syndrome Diagnosed
As mentioned above, Aspergers Syndrome is no longer diagnosed as a condition in and of itself. It is part of the range of conditions included in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If a parent is concerned about a childs social development, unusual language patterns, and odd behaviors, a pediatrician should be consulted. The pediatrician can determine if the child should be seen by a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, or other clinician who is familiar with ASD.
Testing and assessment usually involve a team of medical and psychological professionals. The specialists will ask the parent many questions about the childs development and current skills and problems. They will also interact with the child and conduct assessments to evaluate what symptoms the child shows when interacting with others. They may also assess the childs language and intellectual abilities. A medical doctor might ask questions or order tests to make sure there are no other medical concerns for the child.
Aspergers Syndrome may be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes this condition can be confused with other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder , Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder . Making sure to evaluate the childs social and communication skills, their patterns of behavior and thinking, and how these symptoms have developed over time will help the assessor provide the correct diagnosis.
Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders
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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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.
Early Signs Of Autism In Babies Aged 0
Shortly after they are born, babies begin to smile and coo at people around them. By the time they turn 2 months old, they are able to pay attention to faces.
If the child has autism spectrum disorder, this may not be the case. If a child doesnt smile, or smile as big, and is not showing any warm expression, it may be a sign of autism spectrum disorder.
The following signs can also be seen by the time the baby turns 3 months old:
- Doesnt respond to loud noises,
- Doesnt grasp objects,
- Doesnt follow objects with their eyes,
- Doesnt babble,
- Doesnt point to things,
- Doesnt respond to their names,
- Cant stand when supported,
- Doesnt babble
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Lack Of Interpretation Of Expressions And Gestures
A child with autism typically lacks understanding of social cues and actions. This means a baby or child with autism does not understand the usual facial expression, body language and tone of voice of another person. Thus, they miss out on social cues such as a smiling face is welcoming or a non smiling face is not welcoming. They tend to speak in a flat, cold tone without the usual range of tonality in speech. Sustaining a two-way conversation is tough with an autism affected child. This is because they do not understand or respond to conversational cues and interpret others viewpoint only to a limited extent.
Know What To Look For
Parents are often the first to suspect that a child might be on the autism spectrum. If parents are concerned, they should discuss their observations with a family doctor, pediatrician or nurse practitioner. Some health care professionals may advise a wait and see approach or suggest that your child will catch up. If your child has normal development and then regresses, you should seek help immediately.
Early screening of a child results in an earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. The earlier the diagnosis can be confirmed by a specialized diagnostic team, the earlier any necessary treatment can begin.
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You may help educate your health care practitioners by sharing our Autism Physician Handbook and pave the way for other families to get an early diagnosis. We do not print hard copies of the Handbook. You can download a copy here.
Recognizing the early signs of autism can lead to optimal outcomes. It is critical to know what to look for in a child.
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