How to Know If Your Child Has Autism

There is no greater gift than a child, and when you have one of your own, all you want to do is protect them.

As they grow, you become observant of their behaviors, and for some parents, they wonder whether or not their child displays abnormalities. Autism is a perfect example, as children often display symptoms associated with social communication. Restricted or repetitive behaviors may also be present.

Considering 1 in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s important to recognize warning signs as soon as possible. In doing so, your child can benefit from early intervention. Whether autism runs in your family or you are concerned by your child’s behavioral patterns, here’s how to know if your child has autism.

 

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10 Signs of Autism

While studying the causes of autism, researchers believe that the vast majority of cases involve genetics, and the risk is greater when children are born to older parents. However, research indicates that rates of autism have been increasing in recent decades. Although scientists aren’t sure why, environmental variables are believed to play a role, potentially causing defective gene function and development.

Although the exact cause of autism isn’t known, and a combination of variables may be responsible, there are tell-tale signs. These signs are generally associated with social impairment and communication difficulties, as well as repetitive and characteristic behaviors. Warning signs are typically categorized under:

  • Social skills — Social issues related to autism are some of the most common symptoms across all types of autism. If your child prefers to play alone, does not respond to their name by 12 months of age, and does not share interests with others, these are some of the potential warning signs.
  • Communication — Approximately 40 percent of children with autism do not speak at all. If your child has autism, they may have delayed speech, use few or no gestures, repeats words or phrases, and give unrelated answers to questions.
  • Unusual behaviors and interests — Repetitive motions are common, such as rocking back and forth. These behaviors are self-soothing. If your child gets very upset by minor changes, follows strict (and sometimes unusual) routines, has obsessive interests, and is very organized, these are common red flags.

If you’re concerned about your child, here are 10 signs of autism to look for:

5 Early warning signs include:

  1. No babbling or pointing (by the age of one)
  2. No single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  3. Poor eye contact
  4. Excessive lining up or organization or toys/objects
  5. Little to no smiling

5 Later warning signs include:

  1. An impaired ability to make friends
  2. Repetitive or unusual language
  3. An intense or focused interest
  4. The impairment (or total absence) of social or imaginative play
  5. Being inflexible in relation to specific routines or rituals

It’s important to note that each and every child is unique. Autism is a complex spectrum disorder and symptoms will range widely from person to person. Each child will vary depending on their measured intelligence, social interaction, communication, behaviors, sensory response, and motor skills. For example, in terms of repetitive behaviors (i.e. hand flapping), where do they fall on a scale from mild to intense?

Pay special attention to playtime. If a child under the age of two shows zero interest in showing or sharing toys or prefers to line their toys up instead of playing with, they should be evaluated.

What to Do If You Think Your Child Has Autism

Symptoms of autism most often surface between 12 and 24 months. Since a child’s brain is still forming at this age, early intervention is imperative. Research shows that early intervention can lead to improved quality of life in the future, particularly in terms of academics and relationships. That is why it’s so important to understand key warning signs.

When it comes to the diagnostic process, it’s important to seek a professional opinion. The average age of diagnosis is just over four years old. However, “early diagnosis” would be closer to the age of two. While the majority of concerned parents turn to the internet, searching phrases like “my two-year-old isn’t looking at me” or “my toddler isn’t talking + autism.” Although it’s good to seek answers from reliable sources, if you are truly concerned, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Remember, ASD symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next. That is why you must speak with a licensed clinician or developmental pediatrician, and multiple tests may be required. Being such a broad spectrum, various criteria need to be taken into account, including a child’s history and behavioral patterns. As a child’s parent or caregiver, a lot of information will come from you.

The power of early intervention is based on the brain’s plasticity — or ability to change. The earlier a child with autism receives therapy, the higher the chance is that they’ll retain new, lasting skills. For example, how to take turns or avoid tantrums. If your child is diagnosed with autism, spend plenty of time with them. Your job is to understand your child’s comfort zone and then gently encourage them to step outside of it.

If your child is older, don’t panic. Those who are diagnosed later tend to have milder symptoms and some children diagnosed after age 5 display average or even above-average intelligence. The lesson here is that it’s never too late to intervene.

At Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, we provide state-of-the-art intervention for children and adolescents with autism. We also offer a unique adult autism program. Delivering real results, the programs offered at the Pingree Center transform lives.

Do you think your child may have autism and have questions? Please contact us today!

“Autism is not a disability, it’s a different ability.” — Stuart Duncan