If diagnosed early, you can start therapy sooner. They key, of course, is knowing about the initial signs of autism. But just what are the early signs of autism to look for?In recent years, more and more children in the United States and worldwide, are being diagnosed with autism. In the United States, the rate is holding steady at 1 in 58 children. I’m a mom to one of those children, as you know.
Parenting an autistic child has not always been an easy journey.
I’ve had my fair share of wins and I’ve had my fair share of moments where I was ready to just quit and be done. Getting through the initial diagnosis was an accomplishment within itself. Still, I wanted to make the most of this or at least be able to offer some sort of support to fellow parents. I’ve already talked about how to recognize signs of autism in toddlers, so let’s talk about more of the early signs of autism to look for.
Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., Child Psychiatrist stated “Most mommies and daddies tell me “I thought there was a problem at 14 or 15 months…and [the doctors] told me let’s wait and see because sometimes some kids grow out of it.’ Well, that’s not a good answer. We’ve got to make the distinction between less important problems, where we can wait and see from core problems, which involve a lack of reciprocity and a lack of getting to know your world. For these core problems, we have to act on it yesterday. We can’t wait nine months, we can’t wait two months.”
The Areas of Development that Early Autism Affects
First things first, it is important to keep in mind: autism is not a disease.
You cannot catch autism from someone.
It affects crucial areas of development and exhibits following symptoms like:
- learning difficulties i.e. he lacks in ability to learn inductively from surrounding events,
- communication or speech problems,
- difficulty relating to people, marked by a lack of awareness of the feelings of others, indifferent to parents
- lack of social interaction,
- short attention span,
- not exhibiting creative or imaginative play,
- performing actions that are often repetitive and unchanging like twirling objects or rocking,
- reacting extremely to changes in the immediate environment.
Some, but not all, of these may indicate that your child is on the autism spectrum.
8 More Early Signs of Autism to Look For
1) If your child hasn’t really smiled or shown any type of eye contact or happy expression by 6 months or afterwards, this might be an early warning characteristic of autism.
2) If your child is 9 months old or older, he/she should be sharing sounds, smiles or other facial expressions. If this isn’t the case, let your pediatrician know.
3) Once he/she has hit 12 months of age, your child should be pointing, showing, reaching or waving.
4) By 16 months of age, your child should be saying at least a couple of words.
5) By 2 years, your child should be expressing 2-word phrases by him/herself, (without imitating).
6) If you notice any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age, this might be an indicator of Autism. But you also shouldn’t rule out a speech disorder such as apraxia.
7) If your child speaks with little variation in pitch, odd intonation, irregular rhythm or just a strange voice, this could be a sign of autism.
8) Does your child repeat movements with objects over and over or repeat certain movements with his/her arms, hands, body or fingers? This is a possible red flag.
While it’s important not to be too over-analytical or alarmed about certain behaviors, you also want to keep in mind that the earlier your child is diagnosed with autism, the earlier they can begin treatment/therapy and the better the chance for improvement.
6 More Signs to Look For
1) If your child doesn’t want to hug or hold onto you. – but do not let this one be your sole indicator. Contrary to popular belief, some autistic children are quite affectionate.
2) If your child is not bringing objects to you to identify and is not pointing to objects by the time the first birthday is reached.
3) If your child doesn’t want to interrelate with you and play games such as “peek-a-boo.”
4) If your child shows aggressive behavior on a normal basis or bangs his or her head against an object.
5) If you notice your child engaging in repetitive behaviors, such as opening or closing doors or drawers over and over.
6) If your child takes more fascination with parts of a toy than the action for which the toy was designed. (My daughter loves to use her toys for stimming)
Your child may receive a diagnosis of ADHD, or Sensory Processing Disorder instead of Autism or in addition to autism. Sometimes the signs of ADHD may manifest or present as autism. And many autistic children also have underlying sensory issues.
The key is to be patient and to be vigilant.
If you are concerned, in any way, about your child’s development; speak with your child’s pediatrician. You will likely be referred to a specialist- either a child psychologist or a developmental pediatrician where your child will undergo further testing.
Your child may not receive a diagnosis right away- and that’s okay too! Keep persisting if you think something is wrong.
Want more help and advice? Grab my New Autism Diagnosis toolkit!
Diagnosing autism is more difficult in girls than it is in boys and as mentioned above, your child may have ADHD or sensory processing disorder. But if you still have concerns, be persistent. You are your child’s best advocate and you know them better than anyone.
Keep your head up, moms and dads, you’ve just taken the first step.
Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!