An early diagnosis can lead to early intervention (EI). EI has been proven by research to lead to long-term improvements in a child’s overall intellectual ability and language skills.
Learning the signs of Autism can help you better recognize them if they are present in your child. If you are concerned your child has Autism, you should talk to your pediatrician.
Signs of Autism
Two hallmark signs of Autism that a child must show in order to be diagnosed with the disorder are:
#1 Difficulty with social communication
This can include trouble understanding the ways other people are communicating with them. For example, a child might not read someone else’s facial expression the right way in order to understand how they’re feeling.
They can also have difficulty using nonverbal or verbal communication appropriately with others. An Autistic child might not make eye contact with you when you talk to them or try to play with them.
#2 Restrictive and repetitive behaviors (RRBs)
- Lining up toys or other objects
- Flapping hands when excited
- Talking about a certain topic over and over
- Scripting (repeating a sound, word, or phrase that someone else has said, for example, a line from a television show)
- Focused interests in certain areas (such as letters and numbers)
A child may insist on taking the same route to school every morning or display unusual attachment to objects like toys or keys. They may obsess over specific bodies of information such as maps, manuals, or tables of statistics.
Does my child have signs of Autism?
Even some children who do not have Autism can show a few of the symptoms (like delayed language skills).
Parents should be aware that these symptoms do not necessarily mean your child is on the autism spectrum.
Effectiveness of Therapy
A child’s brain develops more rapidly during their first 5 years than any other point in their lives. Children are more receptive to learning new skills at these young ages because the brain is more easily influenced to change (plastic).
- Increasing vocabulary
- Improving verbal and nonverbal communication skills
- Building sentences
- Providing different modes of communication (such as PECS or Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC))
- Developing social skills to help with areas like participating in conversations and making friends
- Improving pragmatic language skills, leading to long-term improvements in social-emotional wellbeing and academic achievement
Family involvement in therapy is key. When parents are involved and participate in therapy, children with Autism can make even more progress towards improving their speech, language and social skills.
Second, a team-based (“multidisciplinary”) approach is considered to be optimal. Professionals working with a child, such as the Pediatrician, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, and other specialists, should communicate and collaborate regularly about his or her overall progress and goals.
There are also specialized approaches available for improving skills in children with Autism, such as:
Finally, don’t delay in seeking services. Specialists who diagnose Autism such as Developmental Pediatricians, Psychologists, and Neurologists, sometimes have extended wait times for evaluations.
If you have concerns, talk to your child’s pediatrician and ask for a referral for Speech, Occupational, and/or Physical Therapy. Many children on the Autism spectrum are already receiving therapy at the time they are diagnosed.
1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with Autism, according to the CDC. Parents can be their child’s best advocate by knowing the signs of Autism and what intervention to seek out to help.