“My 3-yr-old daughter speaks only 4-5 words and does not play with other kids. Does she have autism?” “How do I know if my child has autism?”
The questions above are just a few of the ones that parents worry about when their kids have communication issues. Though difficulties in communication and social interaction are the most common symptoms of autism, all communication problems are NOT due to autism. To know further, let’s dive a little further into the symptoms of autism in this blog.
What Is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects an individual’s communication, social interaction, learning, and behaviour. Autism is also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] as the signs, symptoms, and levels vary widely. The most prominent signs of autism include,
- Problems in communication and interaction
- Repetitive behaviour
What Are the 6 Main Autism Symptoms?
- Limited or No Speech : A delay in language abilities is one of the first symptoms that parents of autistic children notice. Even children with limited verbal language skills frequently exhibit noticeable indicators that their verbal language is unique. One of these signs is “echolalia,” in which children repeat the words of others.
- Repetitive behaviour : Exhibiting certain repetitive behaviours that are inappropriate to the activity they are doing or their environment, like hand flapping, spinning, swaying, etc. could be symptoms of autism.
- Extreme Sensitivity to touch, light and sound : A child with autism may have trouble organising and understanding information through their senses of sight, sound, touch, and smell. They may exhibit unique sensory-seeking behaviours like sniffing objects or trying to focus closely on moving objects as a result of sensory sensitivities. Some other kids in the spectrum may exhibit atypical sensory avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding common noises and textures, and they may also overreact or underreact to certain senses that involve body awareness, movement, and balance.
- Highly focused interests : Children with autism frequently develop an excessive interest in one object or subject and focus their full attention on it. They learn everything possible about that single subject and become experts in their special interests.
- Difficulties in Communication : Children with ASD may struggle to comprehend what others say to them which invariably affects their social interaction. They also frequently struggle with nonverbal communication, such as hand gestures, eye contact, tone of voice and facial expressions.
- Regression : Some autistic children regress, which means they stop using previously learned language, play, or social abilities. This regression can occur between the ages of one and two years. Some social behaviours, including glancing at others and smiling, may occur sooner.
What Are the Causes of Autism?
The causes of autism remain unknown. However, it is commonly accepted that anomalies in the brain’s structure or function can lead to autism. Multiple research has been conducted to determine the etiological elements of autism due to an increase in the number of cases in recent decades. Different factors include,
- Gadget exposure
- Born to older parents [Aged]
For certain kids, a genetic condition like Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome may be linked to autism spectrum disorder. Genetic variations (mutations) may raise the likelihood of autism spectrum disorder in other children.
It has been discovered that environmental variables are implicated in the pathogenesis of autism. Autism risk is raised in conjunction with pregnancy and delivery problems such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and diabetes in mothers.
Children with autism do not have fully functional brains. Children spending more time on gadgets such as phone, tablet, or television with less parent-child play time, are associated with developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-like symptoms later in childhood. A child under the age of three may develop “virtual autism” as a result.
Born to older parents [Aged]
Children born to older parents have higher chances of autism than children born to younger parents. This parental age effect is one of the most consistent findings amongst the causes of autism, particularly in fathers.
How Does Autism Affect a Child’s Social Skills?
Difficulties in Social functioning is one of the deﬁning features of autism. Although adults and children with autism may wish to interact with others, they typically show difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure/play activities. This can negatively affect a child’s learning and self-esteem, making it difficult for them to establish positive relationships.
Given below are a few social skills that autistic children find difficulty with:
- Play skills, such as sharing toys or taking turns in games
- Conversational skills, such as knowing when to speak and how to use body language
- Emotional skills, such as controlling one’s own emotions and being aware of others’ feelings
- Problem-solving abilities, such as handling disagreements or making choices in social settings.
How Can You Spot Signs of Autism?
Signs of autism include:
- No proper eye contact
- Poor name-call response
- Absence of social smile
- Restricted or repetitive behaviour
- Lining up of toys or other objects
- Delayed language skills
At What Age Does Autism Appear?
Children with autism frequently exhibit symptoms within the first year of life. A small number of children appear to develop normally during the first year, but then experience regression between the ages of 18 and 24 months, when they develop autism symptoms.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that impacts how the individual connects with others, communicates, learns, and behaves. A child is diagnosed with autism based on behavioural observation by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist along with parental interviews.
Early identification and intervention of autism can make a huge difference in helping the child learn, grow and survive. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism between the ages of 18 and 24 months in order to benefit from early intervention therapies such as ABA therapy.
- M-chat[Modified checklist for Autism] – Age [ 0- 3 yrs]
- CARS[Childhood autism Rating scale] – Age[ 3 yr and above]
- ADOS[Autism diagnostic observation schedule] – Age[ 5+]
- ISAA[ Indian scale for assessment of autism] – Age[3+]
No, through therapy we can control the behavioural and sensory issues of the child.
- Be aware of your child’s strengths
- Build parent-child rapport
- Try to explore new things
- Create opportunities for peer-group interaction
- Reward desirable behaviours
- Teach calming strategies
If you still have questions unanswered, kindly post them in the comments below. Remember, it is important to seek professional guidance to understand and diagnose each child’s specific concerns. Never hesitate to seek professional help.