Do you think you may have an autistic child? You're not sure what are signs of autism, or where to begin looking? Do not fear! This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about autism and how to detect it.
Designed for parents, this guide offers clear information on what to look for and how to get help. So, if you're curious about autism spectrum disorder or just want to be better prepared in case of a diagnosis, keep reading!
How early is autism diagnosed?
Early diagnosis of autism is essential for children to get the best possible outcome. There are many ways to diagnose autism, but most experts agree that the sooner it is diagnosed, the better.
The average age of diagnosis is around 4 years old, but recent studies have shown that it is possible to diagnose autism as early as 18 months old. This is important because early intervention can make a big difference in the lives of children with autism. With early diagnosis and treatment, children with autism can learn to communicate and interact with the world around them.
In this sense, if you suspect that your child may have autism, it is essential to speak to your doctor. They will be able to refer you to a specialist who can provide a diagnosis.
8 Red flags of autism to look for in kiddos
There are a number of signs that may indicate autism in kids, and it is important to be aware of them so that you can seek early intervention services if needed:
1. Difficulty with eye contact
Many people with autism find eye contact difficult or even impossible. This may be due to a combination of sensory processing issues and social anxiety. For some autistic people, making eye contact can be incredibly overwhelming. The constant visual input can be too much to take in, leading to a feeling of being overloaded or even in pain.
In addition, many autistic people are shy or anxious in social situations. Making eye contact with someone feels like an invitation to interact, which can be scary for someone who prefers to avoid social interaction. As a result, avoiding eye contact is a way to protect oneself from overwhelming stimuli and uncomfortable social situations.
Whatever the reason, difficulty with eye contact is often one of the first signs of autism. It's important to be aware of this symptom so that children can get the early intervention they need.
2. Not responding to their name
By around 6 months old, babies typically start to turn their head when they hear their name called. However, children with autism may not respond in the same way. This can be one of the first signs that something is different about their development.
There are a number of possible explanations for why this might be the case. It could be that they don't connect their name with themselves in the same way as other children. Or it could be that they find it hard to process the sound of their own name amongst all the other noise around them.
3. Difficulty with social skills and interaction
Another of the red flags of autism is lack of social skills. This can involve poor eye contact, lack of facial expression, and problems with body language. In addition, autistic children may have trouble understanding other people's emotions and may be unable to respond appropriately to them.
Additionally, autistic children may prefer to play alone and may have difficulty understanding turn-taking games. All of these symptoms can make it difficult for autistic children to interact with their peers. As a result, they may become withdrawn or isolated.
However, bear in mind that there are activities you can do with your kiddo to develop their social skills!
4. Repetitive behaviors
While all children engage in repetitive behaviors at times, those with autism tend to do so more frequently and intensely.
These behaviors can take many forms, but they all share one common goal: to provide a sense of comfort and order in the face of an unpredictable world. For some children, this may manifest as hand-flapping or rocking back and forth. For others, it may be more subtle, such as repeating certain words or phrases over and over again. Regardless of the form it takes, repetitive behavior is often an early symptom of autism in kids.
5. Doesn’t show facial expressions
One reason why children with autism may have trouble with facial expressions is that they have difficulty reading other people's emotions. This is because they don't pick up on social cues as well as other kids their age. Without being able to read emotions, it's hard to know when and how to show certain facial expressions.
In the same way, children with autism may have difficulty understanding the concept of feelings. For them, facial expressions may just be a series of random muscle movements that don't have any meaning. As a result, they may not see the point in making or showing facial expressions.
6. Lines up things and gets upset when things aren’t in order
One common early symptom is a strong preference for ordering or lining up toys and getting upset when that order is interrupted. This can be a sign that a child is struggling to process information in a more traditional way. Instead of seeing the toys as individual objects, they may view them as part of a larger system that needs to be in order.
Toys provide a way for them to focus on one thing and to create a sense of order in their lives. This tendency can also be seen in other areas of a child's life, such as an insistence on following routine activities or an aversion to change.
7. Obsessive interests
These interests can range from a simple object or activity to a more complex topic, and they often become all-consuming for the child. While some kids with autism may display intensely focused interests in specific topics, others may have a more general obsession with a certain type of object or activity.
However, all kids with autism who have obsessive interests share a few key characteristics. First, they are usually fixated on one particular thing and have difficulty transitioning to other activities. Second, they typically have a compulsive need to engage in their obsession, and they may become agitated or upset if they are prevented from doing so. Finally, they frequently have a vast amount of knowledge about their obsession and can be extremely passionate about it.
However, whether their obsession is dinosaurs or books, it’s important to get early interaction not only to manage that fixation, but also to help them develop. Who knows if what it seems like an obsession is actually their true passion that would help them thrive?
8. Delayed language, cognitive, and learning skills
Most parents expect their children to start talking sometime between 12 and 18 months old. But for kids with autism, this key milestone may be delayed. In fact, a delay in language is one of the earliest symptoms of autism.
It's not just that autistic kids talk later than their peers. They may also have difficulty using and understanding words. They may use gestures instead of words, or they may use words in unusual ways. For example, they may say “give me five” instead of “thank you.” They may also have trouble using pronouns correctly, saying “you” instead of “I” or “me.”
All in all, autistic kids often have some form of language delay, especially in the areas of expressive language (using words and gestures to communicate) and receptive language (understanding what others say).
What to do when you detect signs of autism in your kiddo?
Now that you know what are signs of autism, the important thing is to not panic if your kiddo is experiencing any of them. There are a lot of resources available to parents who think their child might have autism.
The first step is to contact your pediatrician and set up an appointment. Be sure to express all of your concerns and ask any questions you might have. Your pediatrician will likely refer you to a specialist for further testing. Once you have a diagnosis, there are therapy and educational options available to help your child reach their full potential. With the right support, children with autism can lead happy and fulfilling lives.
So, if you think your child might be showing signs of autism, don’t delay in seeking help. The sooner you get started on a treatment plan, the better. And, if you want to keep learning about autism, don’t forget to visit our blogs!