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Signs of Autism

What are the Signs of Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can present in adults and children alike. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, this means that symptoms can range from mild to severe. In order to ensure proper diagnosis, children should be screened for developmental delays in their well-check appointments at the ages of 9 months, 18 months, 24 or 30 months and at subsequent appointments if there is a regression in behavior or another concern. It is important to be aware of the signs of autism so the appropriate treatment can be made available.

The signs of autism can depend on the child’s age and overall level of development. Autism is not a single thing with specific symptoms. Autism today exists in a classification of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. ASD is a wide range of conditions that range from mild to severe levels. Every odd behavior or slow learning experience does not mean that a child has some type of autism. Many experts advise that there are difficulties in identifying autism in very young children.

Guidance offered by the National Autism Association lists the below-described general areas for investigation. Parents should pay close attention and consider medical help when they observe the below-listed issues.

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Difficulty with communication
  • Repetitive behaviors

General guidance is helpful, and so too are situations that illustrate typical ways in which these concerning behaviors can appear in young children. The following discussion provides some helpful examples of signs of autism in a four-year-old child. 

Low Reaction and Overreaction to Sensory Events

Sensory stimulation can reveal important information about the child’s adjustment and development. The definition of sensory stimuli includes things we can see, touch, taste, and smell. Touch includes the idea of sensations to the skin. Sensory stimulation is a constant factor for nearly everyone. It takes many forms including background noise, sights, bright or flashing lights, tastes, odors, and skin sensations.

Children can have strong reactions that seem out of place given the situation. They can similarly fail to react as they might to impressive levels of sense sensations. Either type of reaction can reveal a type of autism.

No Interaction

One might expect a young child to welcome new and different experiences with curiosity and eagerness. However, some children show an absence of interest and interaction with their environments. The lack of interest in interacting with people and things can be a symptom of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children that do not interact with the world immediately around them require attention. We expect them to imitate behaviors, play games, and seeking attention from adults. Children with ASD frequently avoid such interactions and activities.

Startled Reactions to Loud Noise

Most children react to loud and sudden sounds. They react and often express wide-eyed curiosity. They may show excitement, wariness, and ask questions. While they may be excited, they do not typically show extreme reactions. Children with autism process information in ways that set them apart from others. The reaction to loud and sudden sounds is often an indicator of ASD.

Parents may notice painful expressions or other significant discomfort when in the presence of loud music, loud conversations, or household machines. The startle reaction to loud sounds may be consistent and cause the child to become agitated. When detecting this type of reaction, parents should be aware of the possible relationship to autism. They should observe it and pay close attention. 

Recognizing Expressions and Eye Contact

Eye contact is an important early form of communications for infants. They can interact when recognizing a smile by smiling back. Children often look for clues in the expressions on parents and adults to interpret events. Young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a hard time recognizing expressions and often do not exhibit expressions to others.

At later stages, such as ages three to five, many children with ASD often look to the ground or look away and avoid eye contact when adults speak to them. Children with this type of ASD can fail to interpret interactions and often seek to avoid them. 

Speech and Language Development

Based on the child’s age, there are expected levels of language and speech development. Infants can make sounds that we might call a coo or some other verbal response. At the first birthday, most children can speak some words. When children have some form of autism, they will gain these abilities at a delayed pace. When children do not demonstrate and expected level of language or speech, we can view this as an area for investigation.

What Do I Do?

Parents and guardians that detect behaviors that seem out of place and possibly revealing autism should take action. An accessible early step is to do some research and use an online assessment tool. The M-CHAT Autism Test is a good example. This preliminary assessment tool can point the parent to resources and medical assistance.

The ultimate answers must come from qualified medical experts that can assess the physical, emotional, and cognitive state of the child. Many parents will be relieved that the concerning behaviors do not suggest long-term issues. Most important, the expert assistance will guide the family to the best options for the child’s development and well-being.

Seek Medical Advice

Today, parents have many concerns about their children. Every day, there are new challenges to an already challenging responsibility to care for our children. Consulting medical experts is the best way to determine whether a child has ASD. It is important to understand that discovering the need for diagnosis, intervention, and care is not a bad outcome. A far worse outcome would be to let a child’s need for intervention and care go undetected and untreated.

Every effort to identify a potential problem and get a medical opinion is a positive step. Early intervention is key to determining proper treatment and diagnosis. Children have the best possible outcomes when they get early detection and treatment for any condition on the autism spectrum.

Note: You should consult with your doctor or applied behavioral analyst for recommendations on treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABAprogramsonline.com