If you have a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you’ve probably wondered if this would affect their development and how they hit their milestones. Although every child is unique and developmental milestones don’t always arrive on schedule, this is a valid concern every parent has.

Before getting in-depth into the topic, let’s define Autism Spectrum Disorder as a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States today.

Every child is special. They behave, communicate, and like different thingsthe same applies to their development. There are situations where the child might take longer to learn, which is considered normal. However, certain setbacks need special attention due to their relation to autism signs.

What Is a Developmental Milestone?

girl with play doh

Developmental milestones are skills or age-appropriate actions that most children can do at a certain age. Pediatricians and behavioral specialists use developmental milestones to assess a child’s growth and development. Even though the milestones are within an age range, the age at which a developing child reaches a particular milestone fluctuates from child to child. 

Skills like walking, grabbing food, jumping, and coloring are some examples of developmental milestones.

How Does Autism Affect Growth and Development?

The main difference between the development of a child with autism and a typically developing child is that the latter follows a more traditional timeline, while in the former, it may take longer to reach each milestone. This doesn’t mean that your child won’t reach their milestones; they might take a little longer or look different when they do.

Ever since birth, every child reaches dozens of milestones between childhood and adulthood. The CDC website has created a Milestone section with lists, trackers, and more useful material for parents. 

These milestones are divided by age from 1 month to adolescence and into categories such as Language/communication, social and emotional, cognitive (Learning and Thinking), and Movement/ Physical Development. 

The CDC cautioned, however, that not every kid will complete each developmental milestone at the prescribed age, and parents must monitor their child to ensure that they are developing normally.

Delayed Development vs. Autism

Global developmental delays cause children to reach developmental milestones later than other children. They frequently struggle to develop their cognitive and adaptive skills. Autism and global developmental delay are two different disorders. However, some indications and symptoms overlap. It’s also possible that your kid has both at the same time.

The four categories of developmental milestones are cognitive, sensorimotor, speech and language, and socioemotional. In autistic children, it’s common to see them experience language and speech delays and issues with socio-emotional expression. 

Moreover, children with global developmental delay may have improved social skills and be less prone to exhibit restricted or repetitive behaviors.

  • Every child develops at their own rate because everyone is different. 
  • Premature babies might miss milestones.
  • Boy tends to develop slower in comparison to girls.
  • Many children focus on specific milestones neglecting others. 
  • Correctable challenges such as hearing difficulties that might generate a slow early development usually have little impact on long-term growth. 

When to Be Concerned? 

Even Though children might miss one of two milestones through their growth, The CDC provides a list of behaviors that have to raise a Red flag

  • Does not speak complete sentences 
  • Does not follow simple instructions
  • Does not want to play with others or toys
  • Does not make eye contact 
  • Loses previously learned skills

The behaviors mentioned above could be symptoms of Autism, but they could also be completely normal. Autism often involves multiple emotional and social challenges. But, seeing a pediatrician may be the best way to clear up any doubts if your child exhibits one or more of these symptoms.

Typically, autistic children do not meet all developmental milestones on time.  By saying the previous statement, we are only simplifying and generalizing Autism and how it affects every person, and for obvious reasons, we can’t simplify it. 

Why Can’t Development in Children with ASD Can’t Be Oversimplified

  • An autistic child might reach milestones on time, then lose ground. 
  • Autistic children can reach milestones exceptionally early or significantly late, or not at all. 
  • Autistic children might reach important milestones but not know how to apply them in real-life situations.
  • Autistic girls might be able to hide or overcome developmental delays.

Most significantly, because each person develops differently, using a Milestone chart may be deceptive for Autism diagnosis. Autism typically does not present symptoms at birth. Many children develop as expected and then slow down, regress, or go backward. As a result, using milestones to detect autism can be challenging and often wrong.

What to Do

If you think your child might be presenting some developmental delays or autistic, please do not hesitate to take action. Early diagnosis has proven beneficial to the long-term development of Autistic people. Ask your pediatrician for screening for delays, with an emphasis on social, emotional, and communicational skills.

There might be two possible outcomes. If the warning was a false alarm, you could be certain your child is developing correctly and at their rate. On the other hand, if your child is experiencing developmental delays, it is essential to be proactive and seek support from programs to help them overcome these obstacles.

Make a Difference in Your Child’s Life!

At BM Behavioral Center, we provide ABA Therapy services to help children maximize their development potential. We offer personalized treatment plans focusing on developing social and communicational abilities in a safe and welcoming environment. Our team of Health Care Professionals is dedicated to providing the best care possible to our clients and families.

If you have any doubts or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are more than happy to provide support and help your child reach their full potential.