These days, more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (also known as ASD) than ever before. Autism currently affects one in 59 children — specifically, one in 37 boys and one in 151 girls.
Doctors are getting much better at diagnosing autism early. The sooner someone with ASD is diagnosed, the sooner they can get help with symptom management.
To diagnose ASD as soon as possible, it’s important that parents are able to recognize the most common signs of it.
If you’ve been wondering, “does my child have autism?” this article is for you. Read on to learn more about the signs of autism and what you can do to help your child thrive.
What Is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disability.
ASD does not alter one’s appearance at all, and that can make it difficult to diagnose initially.
ASD is characterized mainly by social, behavioral, and communication challenges. Autistic children behave, learn, and think differently than neurotypical children.
Symptoms of ASD vary widely from person to person.
In some people, it’s barely noticeable and causes limited problems in their daily life. Others require significant care and assistance throughout their lives and are unable to live independently.
What Causes Autism?
Doctors do not know exactly what causes autism. They have identified some factors that increase a child’s risk of developing autism, though.
Some of the most well-known risk factors include:
- Genetics — certain genes that get passed from parent to child have been linked to an increased risk of autism
- Being born to parents of advanced age (mother or father)
- Complications during pregnancy
- Complications during childbirth
- Pregnancies that are spaced less than a year apart
Doctors have also found that taking sufficient prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid before conception and during pregnancy can decrease a child’s risk of developing autism.
Doctors may not know the specific cause of autism. They have ascertained, though, that vaccines do not increase a child’s likelihood of being diagnosed.
Does My Child Have Autism?
Now that you know a little more about what autism is and why some children develop it, you’re probably eager to learn more about its symptoms and how you can tell if your child has autism.
Every autistic child is different, but the following are some of the most common symptoms associated with autism:
Poor Social Skills
A lack of social skills in highly common among children with autism. Social symptoms often present themselves by the time the child is 8-10 months old.
If your child is exhibiting social signs of autism, they may not respond to their name. They may reject physical contact and avoid eye contact, too.
It’s common for autistic children to want to spend time alone and be uninterested in playing or engaging with others.
They may have difficulty understanding or dealing with emotions (their own and those of others) as well.
Difficulty communicating is also a well-known sign of ASD. Some children with ASD experience severe delays in their speech and language skills. Others never learn to speak at all.
In children who do learn to speak, they may have a flat, emotionless speaking voice. They may have difficulty with pronouns like “I” and “you,” and they may repeat the same phrases over and over again.
Communication problems with children with autism extend beyond speaking.
Children with autism might not use or respond to gestures like waving or pointing. They may also have trouble picking up on changes in tone and recognizing jokes or sarcasm.
Certain Behavior Patterns
Many parents who suspect their child has ASD notice issues with their behavior, too.
Autistic children tend to engage in repetitive behaviors. They may jump up and down, rock back and forth, or insist on highly specific rituals and routines. They may also get very upset when something interferes with these routines.
Autistic children sometimes experience a need to constantly move and may appear very hyper. They may be highly sensitive to light, sound, touch, and texture as well.
A lack of coordination is common in children with ASD. They may also be impulsive, exhibit aggressive behaviors with themselves and with others, and they may have very short attention spans.
Failure to Meet Milestones
A child with ASD may also fail to meet specific milestones.
They may not start smiling at six months, imitating facial expressions by nine months, or pointing at 14 months — common milestones in neurotypical babies.
Autistic children may meet these milestones later on in life, or they may never meet them.
Autism Therapy and Management Options
An autism diagnosis can be a scary thing for a parent. It’s important to note, though, that there are lots of steps you can take to manage your child’s symptoms and help them to enjoy a high quality of life.
The following are some specific therapy and symptom management options you might want to utilize:
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Applied Behavior Therapy, or ABA therapy
- Relationship Development Intervention, or RDI
- Sticking to a predictable schedule
- Maintaining a structured environment
- Breaking tasks down into small parts
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Monitoring and making note of sensitivities to texture, sound, and light
It can also be very helpful to use behavioral techniques that encourage certain behaviors and discourage others.
Rewarding positive behaviors can be very helpful for autistic children and can improve their ability to improve language abilities, social skills, and overall behavior.
Get More Tips to Help Your Child
After reading through this, you still might not have a clear answer to the question, “does my child have autism?”
To know for sure, you’ll need to work with your child’s doctor to get a formal diagnosis.
If it turns out that your child does have autism, though, this information can be very helpful in making sure you give them the help and support they need.
Do you want to learn tips that can help you support your child and manage their symptoms? Be sure to check out the health section for more insights.