Autism rates continue to rise, and parents want to know more about what is causing the disease and how to identify signs of autism in their own children. While there is no definite answer about causes of the disease, there is clear evidence that early intervention can make a tremendous impact in the outcome of a child’s treatment and his entire future.
Early signs of autism can very widely by child, and often signs may not appear until a child is over a year old. Parents of children affected with autism have reported that their infants were peaceful and easy, constantly screaming and anywhere in between. A child may be ahead on some developmental milestones, but behind on others making it hard to be sure there is an area of concern.
Many doctors are now assessing children at each appointment following the child’s first birthday to identify any markers of the autistic range. Autism falls on a spectrum, so a child may be barely affected of heavily affected by symptoms and behaviors.
What is Autism?
Autism is a range of conditions that involve difficulty with social skills and communication. There are many specific conditions that fall within the range of autism and children with ASD or autism may be extremely intelligent or suffer from intellectual challenges. There is currently no organized system of diagnosis and symptoms are extremely varied. To diagnose a child as having autism, a doctor must rely on experience and observation.
Early Signs of Autism
It is important to remember that children show a wide range of symptoms and only a consultation with a doctor can help you determine if you have cause for concern.
Poor Communication Skills
Children with autism often have a hard time understanding the purpose of language. They may have limited or no words and might rely on gestures and grunts, or may be completely nonverbal. Specifically, a child that has not spoken a word by sixteen months, does not babble, point and gesture by a year and does not combine two words by the age of two may be showing signs of autism.
Poor Gross Motor Skills
Difficulty running and jumping may be early signs of autism if your child fails to develop these skills at an appropriate time. Other signs include delayed gross motor skills or a strange crawl or other similar unusual movement patterns.
Underdeveloped Play Skills
Children of autism often don’t develop the imaginative play characteristic of children. They play only with a small range of toys and their play may be lining up the toys rather than using them for their intended purpose. These children also don’t play interactively with peers. As a baby, the autistic child may not know how to play with toys, be dependent on a single toy or object, or continuously line up objects.
Limited Social Interaction
The autistic baby does not make the social developments of his peers. He may not like being held and will usually avoid eye contact. His social smile does not develop or develops late. The baby does not respond to his own name and may even seem hearing impaired. AS a child, the limited social behavior continues with the child’s failure to make friends, limited emotional responses to social situations and difficulty showing affection.
Children of autism often have various tics and unusual behaviors. Spinning, flicking, unusual obsession with their hands and feet and highly repetitive mannerisms are all signs of older children with autism. As babies these children were often very sensitive to changes in texture, noise and light.