National Institute of Mental Health defines autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. ASD cannot be cured as of now, but it can be treated.
Early detection of ASD in children can be a great deal of help in early intervention. According to AEIOU Foundation, research shows that early intervention makes a big difference to the development of the child which results in better outcomes for children with autism — such as higher intelligence (IQ) and improved social and daily living skills.
Although no two cases of ASD are exactly the same, there are some common signs that can be easily monitored by the parents. When you noticed some of these unusual things your child does as they are growing up, you should talk to a professional for expert advice:
If the child doesn’t make eye contact when talked to.
John Foxe, a researcher and neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said that a baby with ASD might have difficulties focusing their eyes into something they like when being talked to. Sometimes, when an adult is unaware that the baby has ASD, they would interpret this behavior as the child simply not wanting to connect.
As a result, they disengage from trying to connect to the baby as well — and it becomes a cycle. That is why it is important to determine early on if the reason behind this behavior is autism, because some parents may force their child to maintain eye contact when conversing with others as a sign of respect, clueless to the fact that doing so may be making the child uncomfortable.
If, by six months, the child does not smile when smiled at, or does not show any happy expression.
According to raisingchildren.net.au, Children with ASD often find it hard to recognise and control emotions. They have difficulties understanding the reason for smiling, that’s why they have trouble doing it. If the parents knew as early as possible that their child is possibly autistic, there are several steps they can take to help their child recognize emotions and understand them.
If the child over 12 months does not respond when their name is called.
Another common trait of children with ASD is showing of unresponsiveness when their names were called. Judith Miller, a senior scientist at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explained that it’s not that children with autism would not respond when called, it’s just that they don’t respond as often that they should.
In another study conducted at Standford University, it was revealed that children with ASD don’t really find responding to speech rewarding, as compared to other children with no ASD. This can also explain why kids with autism aren’t that social with others.
If the child does not show interest in interacting with others.
Children should be naturally curious with other people and would show interest in interacting. But, since children with ASD are having a hard time connecting with others socially, they may show disinterest in any interaction and may find it more comfortable to do things alone. While the idea of children interacting with each other sounds good, for children with ASD, the case may not be the same.
As a matter of fact, in a research done by Keise Izuma, Kenji Matsumoto, Colin F. Camerer, and Ralph Adolphs, it was discovered that “People with autism place less emphasis on preserving their reputation or the impressions they leave.”, which could actually explain why interaction is not their priority.
If the child does not like to cuddle or any form of physical contact.
Not all, but some children with ASD have a strong sensitivity to touch. It’s not that they don’t want cuddles or don’t want to show affection, it’s just that some people with ASD experience idiosyncratic sensory difficulties. If the parents become aware of their child’s condition sooner, they can find out some other ways to show their children that they love them.
If the child has a hard time handling changes.
Routines are very important for a person with ASD. Children with ASD can easily get anxious by unpredictable scenarios, therefore repeated practices can give a sense of security and comfort for someone with ASD. If you notice your child being upset when something new or unpredictable happens, you might want to bring it up to the pediatrician.
These are just some of the most common signs that a child might have ASD. Keep in mind that autistic children may find some activities like communicating and socializing difficult, so it’s quite important to not force them into doing these. Also, don’t forget that children develop differently. So don’t jump into conclusions when your child is unable to speak straight when you see other kids the same age being able to do so.
And, if a professional has indeed confirmed that your child has autism, don’t despair — autistic children are the same as any other child (or any other person, for that matter) — they deserve to be loved and taken care of — they’re just a little different, and sometimes, that could be a great thing!
(Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not to be treated as a replacement for professional opinion. Please seek the advice of a professional if your child is showing signs of autism.)