Are you wondering why your little one still isn’t babbling yet? Or why your toddler doesn’t like playing with others? As parents, we often feel like we know our children best. We’re in tune with their moods, behaviors, and quirks. But sometimes, we need a little help in figuring out if they’re simply developing at a slower pace, or if they could be showing signs of autism.
First, it’s important to understand the definition of autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD will often have difficulty with social communication and interaction, combined with restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. So what does this look like for children, and how does autism affect the way they learn, move, and play? For more specific characteristics of autism, checkout our list of the top signs and symptoms of mild autism.
- Avoiding Eye Contact – A common symptom of autism can be seen through day-to-day interactions with others. If your child doesn’t look people in the eyes when speaking with them, that could be a sign of autism.
- Prefers to Be Alone – We all need a little time to ourselves, but children with autism need more than that. In fact, they often like spending time alone and prefer it to being in a social setting.
- Difficulty Making Friends – Many children on the spectrum have a hard time being with others and making and maintaining friendships.
- Lack of Empathy – Does your child struggle to understand other people’s feelings? This lack of empathy could be a characteristic of autism.
- Speech Delay – Though children with autism often exhibit speech delays, that doesn’t mean that every child with a speech delay has autism. In fact, autistic speech delays tend to occur alongside other communication issues, such as not responding to their name or not using gestures. So, while speech delays cause a child to have difficulty developing speech and language skills, autism spectrum disorder also affects social skills, learning, behavior, and communication.
- Repetition of Words or Behaviors – Does your child tend to say the same things over and over? Does he or she fixate on doing the same things constantly and not show interest in other things? These behaviors could be signs of autism.
- Upset by Everyday Noises – For children with autism, everyday noises that may be mildly annoying to most people (such as vacuums or hair dryers) can be truly problematic.
- Playing with Toys Differently – If your child tends to play with toys differently, this could be a potential characteristic of autism. For example, does your child prefer to line up their cars instead of playing with them? This different play perspective could be a sign to watch for.
- Difficulty with Change – Most people need time to adjust to change, but for children with autism, a change in schedule, routine, or surroundings can be alarming.
- Unusual Interests or Behaviors – If your child expresses an unusual interest or exhibits an uncommon behavior, this could be another potential sign of autism.
- Anxiety or Nervousness – For children with autism, certain things can trigger high anxiety or nervousness.
- Lack of Fear/ Very Fearful – Does your child have an unusual lack of fear? Or, perhaps he or she is especially fearful? Either of these behaviors could be signs of autism.
Keep in mind that every autistic person is different. So, while some kids may show a lot of these signs and symptoms of autism, other kids may only show one or two. Since all children develop at their own pace, it can be difficult to determine if a child is missing important developmental milestones, or is just moving at a slower pace. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t meeting his or her milestones, or have noticed some of the above characteristics of autism, it’s important to consult your pediatrician. Early intervention is essential and can make a big difference. Finding the right diagnosis and treatment for your child or infant will help them receive the services they need to thrive and feel comfortable and safe.
For more information on developmental autism therapy, assessments, or speech and occupational therapy, please contact us.