Signs of Autism That Parents Should Look Out For
Is your child exhibiting certain behaviours that you’re worried about? It’s not a terminal illness but autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is among the most upsetting diagnoses, which no parent wants to hear pertaining to their child.
Some of the behavioural patterns may not be definitive signs of ASD, but what are the symptoms that should really be of concern to parents? We narrowed down the usual signs of autism to the more conclusive, so you can get the help your child needs as early as possible.
Milestones Matter: The typical development of a child in early years
Until you know the developmental milestones your child should have at a certain age, you can only suspect or even overlook behaviours that are out of the ordinary. Here are some reassuring signs that your child is developing skills that are expected in their early years:
What is autism?
Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood. It can impact a child’s social skills, communication, behaviour, relationships, and self-regulation. It is defined by a set of behaviours exhibited in varying degrees, hence it is referred to as a “spectrum condition.”
Early signs of autism
In autism, the red flags are not always easy to spot. But knowing what to look for allows you to seek help as early as possible, exactly when it’s needed.
Parents are encouraged to act as soon as they notice any delay. In autism, every month that passes without treatment slows progress. It’s also proven that an early diagnosis can lead to a better quality of life.
Recognising the Signs of Autism in Social, Behavioural and Communication Skills of the Child
There are many ways to check for signs of autism. However, parents can only be limited to observing symptoms. It requires professional assessment and testing to reach a clinical diagnosis. Until then, your keen observations are crucial in bringing help to your child. As such, it’s important that you take note of anything that is out of the ordinary in the child’s social, behavioural, and communication skills. We detailed some of the symptoms of autism in the different aspects below.
Social differences in children with autism
Examples of social communication and social interaction characteristics related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include:
- Avoids or does not maintain eye contact
- Does not respond to name by 9 months of age
- Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age
- Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
- Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age (e.g., does not wave goodbye)
- Does not share interests with others (e.g. an object that he or she likes) by 15 months of age
- Does not point or look at what you point to by 18 months of age
- Does not notice when others are hurt or sad by 24 months of age
- Does not pretend in play (e.g., does not pretend to “feed” a doll by 30 months of age)
- Shows little interest in peers
- Has trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about own feelings at 36 months of age or older
Behavioural differences in children with autism
Children with ASD may also behave in ways that seem unusual or they may have interests that aren’t typical, including:
- Repetitive behaviours like hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling
- Constant moving (pacing) and “hyper” behaviour
- Fixations on certain activities or objects
- Specific routines or rituals (and getting upset when a routine is changed, even slightly)
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
- Not taking part in “make-believe” play or imitating others’ behaviours
- Fussy eating habits
- Lack of coordination/clumsiness
- Impulsiveness (acting without thinking)
- Aggressive behaviour, both with self and others
- Short attention span
Communication differences in children with autism
Some children with ASD start to talk later than usual. But about 40% of kids in the spectrum don’t talk at all. Between 25% to 30% develop some language skills during infancy, but then lose it later.
Some warning signs in your child’s communications skills include:
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice
- Echolalia (repeating the same phrase over and over)
- Problems with pronouns (saying “you” instead of “I,” for example)
- Doesn’t use or rarely uses common gestures (pointing or waving), and doesn’t respond to them
- Inability to stay on topic when talking or answering questions
- Unable to recognise sarcasm or jokes
- Trouble expressing needs and emotions
- Not getting signals from body language, tone of voice, and expressions
What is ABA Therapy?
Psychology Today defines Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) as “a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviours, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job competence.”
ABA is the most researched-on method used for Autism Spectrum Disorder. It has also proven to be highly successful. The ABA approach identifies problems in your child’s behaviours, corrects or addresses any detected issues, and teaches new skills.
How Can ABA Help Improve the Signs of Autism
While there’s no cure for autism, it’s still possible to improve the symptoms associated with it. Through ABA, therapists can foster growth and progress that help children to integrate into mainstream learning. It uses evidence-based treatments that are customised to accommodate the learning difficulties that children in the spectrum struggle with.
In ABA, larger skills are broken down into small manageable steps that are mastered through reinforcement. To foster behavioural change and skills development, different components of ABA such as Task Analysis, Chaining, Prompting, Fading and Rewarding are used during sessions. You can read more about how each component is used and is beneficial, here.
In ABA, the primary method for assessing behaviour change is through repeated data collection. Therapists use this information to monitor the child’s progress and to determine actionable behavioural support strategies. This means that ABA is always guided by parameters that will benchmark the effectiveness of the program.
So, if your child doesn’t meet developmental milestones for his/her age, have them assessed by their paediatrician as soon as possible. Or you can try our Pre-Assessment Test, here. It’s not a substitute for a medical diagnosis, but it can help measure your child’s developmental progress.
Why Choose AutismStep?
At AutismStep we use home-based ABA Therapy to help children in the spectrum unlock their social, behavioural and verbal potential. Learning in their natural environment puts them in a better position to master skills that are important for their daily activities. This groundwork will prepare them for mainstreaming.
Leading your child’s progress are our RBT and BCBA therapists who will conduct sessions that are tailored to your child’s pace. For reference, you can check the feedback from our previous client’s, here.
Through home-based one-on-one sessions, we can easily get you more involved in the process and progress. It will help you to better understand your child’s behaviour, struggles and needs.
If you wish to improve the symptoms of autism that are holding back your child from progressing, you may call us today at +65 6456 9950 for an assessment. Together, let’s set them off on a journey of self discovery.