Early Signs of Autism

What Is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that affects the global population. People with ASD tend to exhibit obstacles with communication, repetitive behavior, restricted interests, and other social challenges. Characteristics vary greatly between individuals, making it necessary to measure on a broad continuum. If you notice any of the signs we are about to discuss, you should act now and get ahead of the problem.

The possible causes continue to be studied and debated, including environmental, biological, genetic, and unspecified factors. There does not appear to be any specific racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic connection. Some people with ASD need significant assistance with activities of daily life, while others are more independent and high functioning. Get in touch with your local ABA centers for information and support.

The autistic have trouble maintaining relationships, socializing, and comprehending expected behavior. They display different manners of learning, thinking, and moving. Signs of ASD can typically be recognized by caregivers at an early age and will most likely persist through life.

Milder cases may not be apparent until a child starts to attend school, where divergences are more pronounced when directly compared to their peers. There is no cure for autism, but the key to effective management is early detection to allow for therapy and improvement over time.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of autism usually appear in the first couple of years. There is no standard medical exam, like a blood test, for identification. Specialists use progress and delays in developmental milestones to analyze the disorder. Evaluation involves interviewing family or caregivers,  observing behavior, and structured interactions with the child. Additional tests should be administered to rule out other conditions like ADHD, hearing loss, or lead poisoning that have markers similar to ASD.

Individuals with autism possess various intensities of intellectual disabilities and advantages. Each person presents with a unique profile of strengths and needs. Sometimes early signs change trajectory, worsening or improving over time. Some with ASD show limited or no symptoms at all. Those that spend the most time with the child might have an easier time noticing indicators.

Early Signs of Autism in Babies and Toddlers

Issues with social skills are a key trait of ASD. Autistic children tend to lack focus pertaining to communication. It might be a concern if you note a lapse in social skills or if the child does any of the following things:

  • Stops babbling, waving, clapping, or making social gestures.
  • Rarely laughs or is slow to laugh or smile at familiar faces.
  • Doesn’t point or hold up objects to show interest and stops looking at something when another person points to it.
  • Keeps speaking with an unusual or monotone rhythm; shows signs of stilted or scripted speech; uses only non-verbal cues.
  • Avoids steady eye contact.
  • Doesn’t appear to listen; seems to ignore you; does not respond to their name being called.
  • Makes inappropriate facial expressions or reactions.
  • Gives unrelated answers to questions.
  • Has trouble expressing their own emotions and explaining what they need and want.
  • Shows difficulty following simple instructions
  • Rarely mirrors other people’s actions as a learning device.
  • Requires longer time to process their actions and to engage and interact with others.

Relationships and Play

Autistic children prefer to play alone. They often seem disinterested in group activities, social games, or pretend play. Because they rarely show interest in other children and do not seem to understand the feelings of others, they find it difficult to make and keep friends. Babies might resist cuddling or holding.

Routines, Repetitive movements, and Restricted interest

Upset by change and the need to follow routines, individuals on the autism spectrum have a tendency to develop special interests and obsessions. For example, they need to follow the same route to a destination or watch the same TV show over and over. New experiences might cause anxiety and behavioral outbursts. Be mindful if you observe an echoing of these signs:

  • Compulsive fascination with patterns or the spinning apparatuses.
  • Having a deep concentration on niche subjects and expecting others to be equally interested; getting stuck on limited ways of experiencing activities; fanatically attached to objects or toys.
  • Stimming, that is, usually uncontrollable movements of habit meant to calm, stimulate the senses or soothe an individual (for example, back-arching, hand flapping, rocking, bouncing, walking on the toes, or spinning in a circle).
  • Spending a lot of time organizing, arranging, or lining up items.
  • Repeating certain words, phrases, or sounds.

Sensory Sensitivities

Sensory processing issues sometimes cause aversion and intolerance to light, sound, textures, and colors. Others seek comfort by stimulated sensations, rubbing objects on their lips or faces, or touching vibrating objects. They might have unusual food preferences and eating habits. Some toddlers with ASD exhibit movement issues, such as impairments with fine and gross motor skills and challenges with balance. Individuals with ASD tend to be visual learners, relying more on pictures than language. This sometimes allows for advanced conceptualization of patterns and the ability to solve complex problems.

Behavioral Fluctuations

Acting out or showing aggression when dealing with miscommunication or a sensory problem that they’re trying to regulate is common. Autistic children sometimes throw frequent or unexpected temper tantrums, have emotional meltdowns, or inflict self-harm in response to minor changes or discomfort.

Early Signs of Autism in Girls and Misdiagnosis

According to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ASD affects 1 in 44 children in the United States, and it is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls. But modern research suggests that this could be inaccurate. It has been a longstanding misconception that autism is a male condition, but a general lack of understanding may lead to missed symptoms in girls.

Autism presents differently per gender. Because the criterion for diagnosis is based on scientific evidence collected from studies done predominately on males, there is an emphasis on analyzing early signs of autism in boys. Also, stereotypes about typical gender behaviors may cause errors in findings. For example, mistaking isolation, hiding one’s feelings, or quietness for maturity, leaving more females living with ASD than people realize.

Girls may have more self-awareness and are conscious of ways of pretending to fit in. Camouflaging is an ability common to females to mimic socially acceptable behaviors making it possible to hide or mask their symptoms. As girls get older and relationships become more complex, they may find it harder to relate.

The constant feeling of rejection is emotionally draining and connected to mental health difficulties, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, attempted suicide, and self-harm. Adult women who are properly diagnosed find reassurance from receiving their results. They now have the chance to catch up on social skills and coping mechanisms at ABA clinics and other therapuetic facilities.

M-CHAT

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT-R) is a series of questions for screening ages 16 to 30 months. Online versions are available.

Treatment

Autism behavioral therapy aims to decrease and manage symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life. Because ASD affects each person differently, treatment will also differ to suit various needs.

  • Applied behavioral analysis: ABA therapy for autism uses a system of reinforcements to improve language, adaptive, and communication skills while decreasing inappropriate behavior.
  • Social skills training: intervention in a group setting to help those with Autism expand their ability to manage social situations.
  • Speech therapy: used to enforce speech patterns and understanding of a language
  • Occupational therapy teaches adaptive skills through activities of daily living.
  • Special diets and supplements have proven to pacify symptoms of autism.

If you recognize early signs of autism in your toddler or baby, do not hesitate to get a professional evaluation. Contact a developmental pediatrician, child neurologists, psychologists, or psychiatrists to assess their thinking, language level, and motor skills as soon as possible. Ever-growing services can greatly improve development and help your child reach their full potential.