When parents discover that much-expected pregnancy, they experience a range of emotions, from protectiveness to joy and even concern. As time passes, parents start to prepare for the baby about to be part of their family.
Most parents have a checklist of developmental behaviors they expect from their children at a certain age, from how they interact with other children to how they act alone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, it is estimated that 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD between the first months of life.
Knowing how your child develops is the key to catching early signs of autism, which can be detected from 6 months of age. While there is no single sign of autism, there are key indicators of a possible ASD diagnosis.
This article covers how to know if your child is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder and how you can suportthem with the right resources.
Autism Is a Broad Spectrum
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how the brain processes information and how a person interacts with their surroundings. Autism is a “spectrum” disorder, which implies that the manifestation of symptoms can widely vary and also depends on which of the five forms of autism a person has.
Generally, parents tend to focus on milestones during their child’s development, such as how they learn to talk or how social their baby is. But for parents with autistic children, there is a different checklist of behaviors to look for.
The reality with developmental milestones is that some autistic children might hit their milestones on time but then lose ground; others might reach some early, and others milestones late or never.
Other babies might appear to gain important skills but be unable to use them in real life, or some high-functioning autistic children, mostly girls, might be able to hide some developmental delays.
How to Know if Your Child Is Autistic?
The first step in determining whether your child is autistic is to compare how their development and behavior follow the neurotypical milestones for babies their age. However, to accurately assess if your child is on the autism spectrum, you should consult with an expert.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children receive developmental screenings at 9, 18, 24, or 30 months. These evaluations are designed to detect delays in development and mental health conditions, such as ASD or ADHD.
On the other hand, parents can also use the following information on early autism signs retrieved from the CDC to understand their child’s development.
Social Communication and Interaction Skills Signs
- Avoids or does not keep 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., shows you an object that they like 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
- Does not play games with turn-taking by 60 months of age
Signs of Autism in Young Children
At 6 months, a baby should respond by making noises or facial expressions when you talk to them and show interest in their environment. They should also show excitement when they see familiar people and respond to their own names.
At 9 months, a baby should be able to respond to their own name, babble, and imitate some simple words. They should also show an interest in playing simple games like peek-a-boo.
At 12 months, a baby should be able to understand some simple instructions, follow a point, and use simple gestures like waving. They should also show an interest in playing with other children.
At 16 months, a baby should be able to identify body parts and understand common words like “shoe,” “juice,” and “cup.” They should also engage in pretend play and follow simple instructions.
At 24 months, a baby should be able to correctly use at least 30 words and put together two-word phrases. They should also show an interest in playing with other children and be able to name familiar objects.
Signs of Autism in Older Children
In older children, the signs of autism can be more difficult to detect as they may have learned how to mask their differences. Some common signs that parents should look out for are:
- Difficulty with forming friendships
- Does not talk about their feelings
- Avoids eye contact when talking to people
- Has difficulty understanding how other people think and feel
- Difficulty following conversations or taking turns in conversations
- Appears to be in their world
- Fixates on specific topics or interests
- Has difficulty following social rules (e.g., how to start a conversation, how close to stand to someone)
Signs of Autism in Girls
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), girls with autism may display different behaviors than boys with autism. For example, they may be better at masking their differences and trying to fit in. Some common signs of autism in girls include:
- Difficulty making friends
- Becoming overly attached to one person or object
- Showing an interest in stereotyped topics
- Being hypersensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures
- Having a narrow range of interests
- Exhibiting repetitive behaviors like rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping
Other Common Signs of Autism in Children
Other common signs of autism in children include:
- Having difficulty expressing needs using words or motions
- Engaging in repetitive activities and building structure patterns
- Experiencing sensory overload from sounds, sights, or smells
- Having difficulty making transitions from one activity to another
- Unusual eating and sleeping habits
- Gastrointestinal issues (e.g., constipation)
- Unusual mood or emotional reactions
- Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry
- Lack of fear or more fear than expected
What to Do If You Believe Your Child Has ASD
If your child’s behavior falls under the list above, it is time to take action. The first thing to do is to talk to a doctor, a pediatrician, or a specialist.
Remember that there is no medical test to diagnose Autism, such as covid or diabetes. A diagnosis is performed through interviews, evaluations, and observation such as speech evaluation, Autism Diagnostic Interview, or ADI-R.
Work with BM Behavioral Center
Early diagnosis and intervention help improve the child diagnosed under the spectrum. At BM Behavioral, our only desire is to see them thrive. We offer ABA-based therapies and family training to aid in developing children with Autism in Contra Costa, California.
We understand how important early intervention can be for these children and are here to support you. So don’t hesitate to contact us and let us help your child on their journey toward a brighter future!