Autism is a mental health condition that affects communication as well as relationship building, language skills, and understanding of abstract concepts. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because some children are affected more than others. Some have lower level symptoms while others have very severe symptoms.
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are four different types of symptoms when it comes to autism. Children may experience social difficulties, communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and physical or medical problems. Each of these can occur in different ways and different combinations.
Social difficulties may include symptoms like:
*Failing to respond to their name by eight months
*Disinterest in people
*Difficulty playing games with others
*Don't imitate things they see others do
*Don't seek comfort from parents
*Prefer playing alone
*Difficulty understanding social cues
*Difficulty understanding someone else's thoughts or actions
*Difficulty predicting the actions of another
*Difficulty regulating emotions
*May engage in self-injurious behavior
Communication difficulties include symptoms like:
*Delayed babbling, speaking or hand gestures
*Difficulty combining words into sentences
*Difficulty sustaining a conversation
*May have extended monologues on one subject
*Difficulty understanding expressions that aren't literal
*Facial movements and tone do not reflect what is being said
*Do not understand body language from others
Repetitive behaviors include symptoms like:
*Repeating sounds, words or phrases
*May engage in self-stimulating behavior
*Demand extreme levels of consistency
*Changes to routine can cause stress
*Intense obsession or preoccupation
Physical and medical conditions can include symptoms like:
*Sensory processing problems
*Pica or eating things that aren't food
Should I Seek Help?
Everywhere you look there are guidelines for what developmental milestones your child should reach and at approximately what time. Some children achieve these milestones a little earlier, and some achieve them a little later, but a significant delay could be a reason to at least speak with your doctor. Significant changes in your child's behavior or symptoms like those that we have discussed above are also a reason to speak with your doctor. The important thing is getting a diagnosis as quickly as possible, so you know what to do for your child.
If you're concerned about behaviors that your child is (or isn't) engaging in it's good to at least bring your doctor into the conversation. They will be able to help you understand what's going on. Your child may be a little developmentally delayed but not have autism, or your child may be entirely within the range that's suggested for a specific activity. It's possible that they do not have autism but do have a different developmental disorder or problem. By talking with your doctor about the symptoms and your concerns, you'll be able to start the treatment process faster.
Research has shown that the faster a child receives a diagnosis and treatment specifically for autism spectrum disorder the more they are capable of doing. These children will be better prepared for the future because they get the support that they need at an early age.