Early Signs of Autism
Sam is a toddler that is not developing at the same rate as his peers. At age two, his parents noticed that his language was delayed. He did not respond to his name when called. Sam also did not like interacting with other children or playing “peek-a-boo” with his parents. After his parents discussed their concerns with their pediatrician, they had Sam assessed. Once Sam was tested, they learned that he had autism.
Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder, is a brain disorder that affects the development of social interaction and communication abilities. The causes of autism are unknown, and it is not easily detected until about age two or three though symptoms can appear earlier. There are different degrees of autism which are rated on a spectrum scale. A mild case is on one end of the spectrum and often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome. Children with Asperger’s are usually fairly high-functioning and intelligent. Their disability is in the ability to relate to others. On the other end of the spectrum, severe cases of autism can occur. Some of these cases include the inability to communicate entirely.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children have been identified as having autism spectrum disorder. It is thought to be on the rise, and it is four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. Siblings of a child with autism are also more at risk for having autism. All races, social classes, and ethnicities are affected by autism. Because early intervention is so important, it is essential for parents to know the signs that may indicate the need to be screened by a doctor.
First Signs, Inc. (www.firstsigns.org) lists the following as early signs of autism:
Little or no eye contact
Does not respond to name, acts deaf
Does not meet developmental milestones (i.e. crawling, walking)
Uses repetitive actions or words
Displays hand flapping and/or toe walking
Regression or loss of skills
Demonstrates inappropriate play or behavior
Prefers to be alone
Over- or under-reactive sensory input (i.e. touch, sound, taste, sight, hearing)
Rocks or bangs head, likes spinning
If you have a child or you know a child that demonstrates some of these signs and you are concerned that he or she might have autism, talk to the child’s doctor. The sooner a child with autism is diagnosed, the sooner he or she can start receiving special services and help that will lead to greater success for the child and family.