If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or special person to a child, there is a good chance you’ve heard of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But what do you really know about it? You probably want to know what the early signs of Autism are? But also, what we can do to help our children flourish is extremely important too.
ASD: The Early Signs
It can be challenging to diagnose ASD as the signs can be different for each child. And it’s even harder to diagnose in really young children as they have less ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Plus there are so many overlapping or similar signs and symptoms of Autism that can be something completely different too.
But let’s look at four common ways to tell if your child may be Autistic:
These are when kids don’t reach certain milestones by a particular age. Some common ones to watch out for are:
- Responding when you say their name (by 9 months of age)
- Showing signs of facial expressions such as happy, sad, angry or surprised (by 9 months of age)
- Pointing or waving (by 12 months of age)
- Showing interest in things (by 15 months of age)
- Following where someone is pointing to (by the age of 18 months)
- Unaware or doesn’t acknowledge when someone else has hurt themselves or is sad (by 24 months of age)
- Engaged in pretend play (by age 30 months)
- Understanding emotions of others or talking about their feelings (by 3 years of age)
- Playing games that involve taking turns (by age 5)
All kids are different, so don’t panic if your child hasn’t reached a milestone by the exact date, however significant delays or any concerns you have are worth raising with your doctor. At the end of the day, you know your child best.
When it comes to social situations, does your child avoid making eye contact and struggle to make friends? Are they not interested in going to birthday parties or won’t play sports or avoids other social groups?
Does any of that sound familiar or ring a few bells?
One of the reasons Autistic kids can appear to be socially awkward is because they can get hyper-focused on one thing and one thing only. That’s all they can process, and all other social communication goes out the window.
Struggles ith Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
A common sign of Autism is struggling with understanding emotions, facial expressions, and changes in voice tones. Also not understanding when someone is being sarcastic or telling a joke or their body language. Obviously, age-appropriately, but kids can generally start to interpret their parent’s voices and facial cues from an early age, especially if they’re getting in trouble. 😉 Have you noticed that?
Is Upset by Changes to Routine
This is one that you might hear a lot about autistic children. They usually always get upset by changes in routine or if you say you’re going to do something and you don’t do it for whatever reason.
They like repetitive behaviours and routine big time and are comforted by routine and knowing what is coming up.
Does developmental delay mean Autism?
No, it doesn’t. There are many things that can cause developmental delay, which are not directly related to Autism.
- Being born prematurely
- Genetic conditions, for example, Down Syndrome or Muscular Dystrophy
- Problems with their hearing or eyesight
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Physical abuse or neglect
- Lack of oxygen during delivery
Language and speech developmental delays are the most common delays in kids and can be due to many reasons, including a learning challenge (e.g. Dyslexia). If you’re concerned, always seek medical advice. As I said above, you know your child best and can tell when something is not quite right.
Speak to your child’s psychologist if they have one or your doctor, if you need a psychologist referral.
Is your Child Displaying ASD Symptoms?
If your child is displaying signs of ASD, as we said, it’s time to speak to your doctor about developmental monitoring and any other concerns that you may have.
In the meantime, we have some great books about Autism in our online store and Altona North shop. Knowledge is power! We also have lots of beautiful Weighted Animals that can provide great comfort to kids on the spectrum and can help improve their focus and concentration. Fidget Toys are another great option too to calm and help focus your child.