Early Signs and Symptoms of Autism to Watch Out For

Discover the early signs and symptoms of autism in this informative guide. Learn about key indicators that may manifest in early childhood, such as challenges in social interaction, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. Uncover crucial insights to recognize potential red flags, empowering parents, caregivers, and educators to seek timely intervention and support. Explore the nuanced behavioral cues that may signal autism spectrum disorder, facilitating early identification and fostering a more comprehensive understanding of developmental needs. Stay informed about the subtle yet significant markers that could pave the way for early intervention strategies, promoting optimal outcomes for children on the autism spectrum.

As a developmental disorder, the signs and symptoms of ASD or autism spectrum disorder can be seen as early as the first 12 months of a child’s life or as late as when they are in their teens. 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that early screening and testing is the key to identify if your child or loved one has ASD or not. These screenings and constant monitoring can be done as early as when a child is nine months’. After that, an increment of six months until the 30th month is recommended to identify if your child is exhibiting signs of autism that may not be visible to the untrained eye. 

Screening for signs and symptoms of autism 

As a developmental disorder, autism needs to be diagnosed early on to help you do the necessary intervention. Autism signs and symptoms vary from children to children. Some kids cannot learn a specific skill set for their age. Others lose the skills they once had the moment their autism symptoms manifest. 

Because autism has different ranges when it comes to severity, those with severe symptoms can live a fairly normal life when diagnosed early. On the other hand, children with mild symptoms, if left undiagnosed and without the proper care and intervention, can have a difficult time to “grow out” of their symptoms. 

By having your kids screened as early as now, you can give them the necessary intervention they need to grow and live as “normal” as they can be even if they have challenges in developing as they should for their age. 

Which brings us to the question:

Which autism signs and symptoms do you need to watch out for?

There’s a good reason why autism is also called a spectrum disorder – the symptoms vary from children to children. 

One child who has autism can have a difficult time communicating with his family or peers. Another may show an intense focus on one specific object. Some children may do certain things a certain way. Others may withdraw from social gatherings or avoid eye contact.

For someone untrained, these are the most common cues that could tell you that a child has the first signs or symptoms of autism. But it’s more complicated than that. If you want to learn more, below is the list of what are the early signs of autism that you may not be aware of for now: 

Other signs and symptoms of autism in children that you should know about:

  • abnormal body posture
  • disturbances in behavior
  • cannot communicate well
  • difficulty in comprehension
  • intense concentration or focus in a specific object and/or subject
  • difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • lack of desire to play or engage with their peers
  • avoidance of making eye contact
  • lack of empathy
  • unusual facial expressions
  • language delays
  • obvious learning difficulties
  • monotonous speech patterns
  • speaks oddly or odd choice of words
  • has a hard time sleeping or having disturbed sleep patterns
  • shows self-abusive behavior
  • inappropriate or abnormal social interactions
  • unusual tone of voice
  • lack or difficulty understanding social cues
  • use of repetitive words
  • exhibits repetitive movements like rocking back and forth
  • withdraws from socializing with others

These are just some of the signs and symptoms of ASD that you should watch out for. A child can exhibit any of these symptoms once or twice if they’re still learning or trying to achieve a milestone. However, if you think that your child is showing any one or two or more of these symptoms more and more often, getting screened for autism is definitely something you have to do to get diagnosed early and do the proper intervention. 

Steps on Screening for Signs and Symptoms of Autism

Screening for signs and symptoms of autism is a critical process in ensuring early detection and intervention, which can significantly improve outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The process involves a series of steps designed to identify children who may benefit from a more detailed evaluation. Here are the essential steps to take when screening for signs and symptoms of autism:

Step 1: Observation

The first step in the screening process is observation. Parents, caregivers, and educators can play a crucial role in this initial phase by monitoring the child’s behavior in various settings and situations. Look for signs such as limited eye contact, lack of social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and delayed language development. Documenting these observations can provide valuable insights during the formal screening process.

Step 2: Developmental Screening

Developmental screening is a brief assessment designed to identify children at risk of developmental disorders, and early signs of autism. This can be conducted during regular pediatric health visits. Healthcare providers typically use standardized screening tools, which may involve questionnaires or checklists filled out by parents. These tools can help identify children who may need a more comprehensive evaluation.

Step 3: Use of Standardized Screening Instruments

For children identified as at risk during the developmental screening, the next step is to utilize more detailed and specific standardized screening instruments for ASD. Tools such as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) and the Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT) are commonly used. These instruments provide a more in-depth look at autism-specific behaviors and symptoms.

Step 4: Professional Evaluation

If a child screens positive for the risk of autism based on observation and standardized tools, the next step is a comprehensive evaluation by a multi-disciplinary team of professionals. This team may include a pediatrician, child psychologist, neurologist, and speech-language pathologist. They will conduct a series of assessments, including cognitive and language testing, to make a formal diagnosis.

Step 5: Referral for Early Intervention Services

Following a diagnosis, the child should be referred to early intervention services as soon as possible. Early intervention can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and behavioral therapies designed to address the child’s specific needs. Early and targeted intervention is key to supporting the child’s development and quality of life.

Autism by the numbers

The CDC reports that 1 in every 44 children is diagnosed with autism. The disorder is also more prevalent in boys occuring four times more than girls. Unfortunately, only 1 in 6 children or about 17 percent gets diagnosed from ages 3-17. 

Given these numbers, it is crucial to have your child diagnosed early at the first sign of a possible autism symptom.

Signs of autism in babies and toddlers

Autism diagnosis during infancy has a great and positive impact in the treatment and management of autism in a child’s later life. Usually, the signs appear between 12 to 18 months of your baby’s life, but it could also manifest later on. Observers may perceive a quiet and undemanding baby as a well-behaved baby. However, that sense of independence in a baby’s life may already be a sign of autism. 

Here are some more signs and symptoms of autism in babies and toddlers that you should watch out for:

  • lack or not making eye contact
  • not responding to their name when called
  • no visible talking (baby talk) by at least 12 months
  • not smiling or laughing in response to outside stimuli
  • speaking the same words repeatedly
  • organizing their toys a certain way
  • not being able to recognize facial expressions or feelings

Other symptoms of autism that can be confusing

When considering the perspective, some symptoms or signs of autism may resemble behaviors exhibited by non-autistic children.

However, if you have any one of the obvious symptoms of autism already PLUS any of these behaviors listed below, then you might want to get your child checked as early as possible. 

  • poor coordination and control
  • delayed speech
  • avoiding eye contact
  • frequent constipation
  • having no to limited interactions with kids their age
  • irritability or inability to make small changes in their schedule
  • pica or the or the tendency to eat non-food items
  • poor sleeping habits
  • repeated movements like rocking back and forth or spinning
  • seizures
  • avoiding touch or any physical contact
  • use of repetitive words

Know that not all children with autism receive an early diagnosis. They receive a diagnosis in their teens. Unfortunately, late diagnosis can make the treatment and management of autism much harder to do. 

What to do if your child is diagnosed with autism

Once you confirm your suspicions that your child has autism, the next best step is to talk to your doctor about the possible treatment on how to best manage autism symptoms. 

Children with autism need a special diet and needs to be given behavior or maybe speech therapy to correct their behavior in a crowd and help them be able to communicate better. For severe symptoms of autism, you may consider the use of certain medications as part of your child’s treatment. However, you have to speak to your child’s pediatrician first to discuss options for therapy first before trying out medications. 

Get the support you need

Knowing your child has autism may not be easy, but there are self-help books you can read to help you get through your journey as a parent. There are also support groups you may find online or locally to help you with what you need as a parent of a child with autism. 

For one, the Autism Society offers a ton of resources and helpful information if you need it. They also offer referral services to anybody who might need it. All you have to do is go to their website. Send your request and get the support that you need. 

Know that there is always hope

Knowing that your child has autism doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to depend on you their whole life. In fact, people with ASD graduate all the time, get jobs and even start their own family especially if they just have mild to moderate symptoms. If not, kids with autism can still live a normal life and participate in specialized jobs and live with your support and the community. 

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The thing is, it all boils down to one important factor: EARLY DIAGNOSIS. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s doctor to check them for possible signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. The earlier you get the diagnosis, the better it is to help your child get the proper treatment. With early intervention, proper diet, exercise and support, your child can do really well in managing their symptoms.

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