When children show different developmental differences, parents need to be aware of autism. This is a neurodevelopmental disorder, in which children may have communication difficulties or cognitive impairment. Since it can range from mild to severe, parents need to know the early signs of autism so that they can make a big difference.
Catching the autism spectrum disorder early allows parents to help children learn and grow. It might not come easy but identifying a spectrum of symptoms can be the best way to figure it out. Keep scrolling to learn more about autism, early signs, and symptoms.
Brief Information about Autism Definition
Autism doesn’t sound strange to our ears but only a few people know what it actually is. The lack of valid information leads to a wrong perception, low awareness, and even myths about this disorder. Thus, it’s necessary to learn more about the definition of autism before proceeding to early signs of autism in babies or children.
Autism, often known as ASD, is an extensive range of conditions that are characterized by challenges with speech and nonverbal communication, social skills, and repetitive behavior.
People with this brain-based disorder may behave, interact, and communicate in different ways. Some sufferer needs much help in their daily lives but some others may need less.
Boys are 4.5 times more likely to be affected by autism than girls and it can be found in all ethnicities and races.
Is Autism Genetic?
Based on studies, autism is basically a genetic condition with an identical twin having more chance to be affected than non-identical twins or siblings. And yet, environmental factors also play role in causing autism in children.
Related Article: How to Support a Child with Autism
One of the most common myths about autism is that vaccines cause autism. Extensive research and studies have proven that there’s no link between vaccinations and autism. Children who don’t receive vaccines don’t have lower rates of ASD.
Early Signs of Autism
Symptoms of autism commonly appear at age 2 or 3 but it varies widely depending on many factors. Some infants show early signs of autism in their first months while some others don’t show hints until they’re 3 years old.
Additionally, children might not show all the signs so professional evaluation is necessary. Differences in physical and cognitive development are the most obvious first signs of autism in infants.
When Autism Diagnosed?
Autistic children have different developmental milestones compared to normal children. Here are the most common symptoms of autism by age.
- Early signs of autism in 6-month-old baby: No warm and joyful expression or big smiles
- Early signs of autism in babies 9 months: No facial expression and sharing of sound
- 12 months: No babbling, little back-and-forth gestures, no response to name
- By 16 months: Few or no words
- Early signs of autism at age 2: No meaningful two-word phrases (repeating and imitating don’t count)
Other early signs of autism in toddlers also include:
- Doesn’t make eye contact when being fed
- No response to familiar voice or when someone calls his name
- Doesn’t imitate your facial expressions or movements
- Unwilling to play with other people
- Doesn’t make noise to catch your attention
- Doesn’t follow your gesture when you point out
When your baby shows some or all of those hints, you’ve got to be aware of autism spectrum disorder. We recommend you visit a pediatrician for an in-depth evaluation.
But you should keep in mind that children with ASD may have different severity of symptoms as it can vary a lot.
When children get older, the early signs of autism get more diverse. The warning signs typically include impaired social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication difficulties, and inflexibility. The following are compiled signs and symptoms of autism in older children.
- Seem unaware or uninterested in other people and everything around them
- Don’t know how to play with their peers
- Don’t like to be touched or cuddled
- Speak with an odd pitch
- Repeat the same words
- Use language incorrectly with wrong words or grammatical errors
- Repeat questions rather than answering
- Avoid eye contacts
- Use a few gestures when talking
- Show unusual attachment to specific objects
- Fond of watching moving objects
- Find difficulty in adapting to changes
How Autism is Diagnosed?
Once you find autism in toddlers, it’s highly recommended to visit a pediatrician. The specialist will diagnose ASD by considering the developmental history and behavior of the child.
The disorder can be detected at 18 months or younger but it’s barely visible in newborns. By age 2, an autism diagnosis can show reliable results.
To diagnose autistic children, the specialist uses the following criteria:
- Persistent impairment in social communication and interaction
- Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior
- Symptoms must exist in early period of development
- Signs cause significant impairment in social areas
- The disturbance can be explained neither as intellectual developmental disorder nor developmental delay.
The diagnoses process consists of several steps that range from monitoring to evaluation. Take a closer look at the following processes.
At this stage, the specialist observes your child’s development overtime to figure out if he meets the typical developmental milestones in all aspects. The doctor may ask some questions, talk, or play with your child.
Experts will observe carefully your child’s growth and development at this stage. Formal questionnaires or checklists are commonly used to conduct behavioral and developmental screening to diagnose early signs of autism.
Related Topic: Help Children With Autism
According to the AAP, this screening is a must for all children at 18 months and 24 months especially for children with a high risk of ASD.
If a child shows an undisturbed development track, evaluation isn’t necessarily needed. But if the screening tools identify a concern, Parents will need developmental evaluation from trained specialists.
The specialist may observe the child, ask the parents some questions and the result determines the diagnosis. The specialist may also suggest special treatments or services.
How early signs of autism can be treated? Parents with autistic children can help their kids to learn and grow by maximizing their abilities through a variety of treatments. Despite their differences, these children deserve to live at near-normal levels.
When it comes to treatment for early signs of autism in newborns, there’s no standard suggested by the experts. And yet, there are several ways to minimize the symptoms and help the children to deal with their developmental disorder.
The treatment and intervention should be tailored to meet the specific needs of a child. With the right therapies, it isn’t unlikely to make them thrive.
Here are different types of treatment and intervention for ASD.
Applied Behavior Analysis
This is a therapy based on the science of behavior and learning. This analysis helps understand how behavior works and how the environment affects behavior.
The therapy can help autistic children to increase their language and communication skills, improve attention, memory, social skill, as well as decrease problem behaviors.
Early Start Denver Model
This is another intervention to treat early signs of autism in babies. This behavioral therapy is suitable for autistic children between 12 to 48 months and is based on applied behavior analysis.
The main goal of the therapy is to improve a child’s language, cognitive, and social skills through fun activities. The therapy is quite flexible. We can do this in various settings like at home, in school, or at a clinic.
Children with language and communication impairment can take speech-language therapy. This intervention helps kids improve their verbal and nonverbal communication.
The main goal is to help a child communicate in a useful and functional way. The therapy commonly begins with an evaluation, then the therapist can set goals for the individuals.
This is a relationship-based therapy where parent and child play and interact on the floor. The main goal of this therapy is to help children improve their communication.
Through the activities, the parent gets into the child’s game and follows what she orders. The expected outcome includes emotional and intellectual growth such as emotional thinking, self-regulation, and intimacy.
Early signs of autism in toddlers can be treated with occupational therapy that helps improve everyday skills. Through this therapy, autistic girls or boys are expected to be more independent and are able to participate in various activities.
The therapy covers several aspects including physical, cognitive, and social. The therapist will begin the procedure by evaluating the child and setting strategies to reach goals.
Relationship Development Intervention
The RDI is a family-based behavioral intervention that addresses the core symptoms. This therapy focuses on building emotional and social skills, in which parents play a major role as the primary therapist.
It helps autistic children to learn from emotional experiences, cope with change, and understand different perspectives. The RDI also helps build a child’s motivation and improve their skills.
This treatment focuses on addressing the early signs of autism. Changes in the diet by removing certain foods help eliminate food allergies that may cause the symptoms. It also helps enhance vitamins and mineral intake to make a difference in how the child grows.
In some cases, autism comes with a number of health issues both medical and mental. The most frequent issues include epilepsy, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, or ADHD.
These associated medical conditions must be treated, either with the use of medication or therapy.
How to Take Care of Autism Child
Parenthood is challenging and autism just doubles it. Luckily, parents with autistic children can do a lot of things to help them deal with their challenges. Nurturing a child with autism needs much of your energy, effort, and patience but the following tips can make everything easier.
1. Be Consistent
Children with ASD may find difficulties in applying things they’ve learned at school or at a clinic. They may have learned sign language but applying this language at home can be a hard time.
To help your child, it’s important to create consistency in their environment. Figure out what the therapist has taught and do the same at home. It helps your child cope with his communication challenges.
- Follow the Schedule
As early signs of autism are difficulty adapting to changes, it’s necessary to make a schedule for your child and let him stick to it.
They can do best with a structured schedule so it’s important to be consistent in maintaining the schedule.
Try not to change the routine as it can be stressful for your child. If there should be a change, help your child to deal with it
- Give Reward
A little reward goes a long way with autistic children. Don’t hesitate to give a reward when they do something good.
Praise them when they learn a new skill or reward them for performing good behavior. This can give a huge motivation for your child.
- Ensure Home Safety
Make your home a safe place for the child. You can provide a private space where he can relax, feel secure, and do a lot of activities inside.
But if your child has a mental disorder like anxiety, depression, or kids tantrums, it’s crucial to safety-proof your house. Be sure to keep harsh and fragile things out of the child.
- Try Nonverbal Ways to Communicate
Building effective communication with a child with autism can be challenging. As early signs of autism include incorrect use of language, you’ve got to find another way to connect with the child.
It can be using body language, a different tone of voice, or the way you touch. You might also need to learn the language commonly used by the child, even if he never speaks.
- Make a Personalized Treatment Plan
There are so many autism treatments available and it can be a real struggle to find the right one. To make things easier, you can create a personalized treatment plan that is tailored to meet the specific needs of your child.
A good plan should be able to build a child’s interest, provide regular behavior reinforcement, and engage the child’s attention in structured activities.
All in all, children with autism don’t reach typical developmental milestones but they can live a near-normal life and grow. Catching early signs of autism in infants or toddlers help parent figure out the right treatments that meet the needs of the children. With the right intervention and care, children with ASD can thrive.