When considering language, detecting Autism seems to be one of the greatest sources of anxiety for parents. Even though your child may exhibit common signs/symptoms associated with the diagnosis, it may not necessarily mean that your child has Autism.
Autism (or Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD]) is a complex developmental disability in which a child may exhibit signs in early childhood. This disability specifically affects the way someone communicates and interacts (socially) with others (www.autism-society.org). According to the Centers for the Disease Control (CDC), autism affects approximately 1 in 59 children in the United States today.
SIGNS OF AUTISM:
It is important to know that Autism is treatable. There is no single known cause of Autism, but increased awareness and early intervention significantly improve outcomes. According to www.autismspeaks.org, while Autism is typically diagnosed in children aged 2-3 years, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.
Consider some signs to look for:
- Delay in spoken language
- Repetition of motor movements (flapping)
- Repetitive use of language (echoing)
- Reduced/no eye contact
- Fixation on parts of objects (e.g. wheels on a car)
- Lack of interest in peer relationships.
HOW DOES AUTISM DIFFER FROM ASPERGER’S SYNDROME?
Where Asperger’s syndrome used to be considered on the spectrum of autism, Asperger’s is usually distinguished from autism on account of stronger verbal language skills and intellectual abilities. Typically, Asperger’s syndrome is denoted by difficulties with social interactions and restrictions with interests. Individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s usually have strengths in paying attention to detail and can have strong focus, but they may have difficulty with non-verbal cues (spatial awareness, tone, volume), may present as uncoordinated and have some hyper-sensitivities.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE WORRIED YOUR CHILD MAY BE EXHIBITING SIGNS OF AUTISM:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org) it is recommended that all children be screened for autism at their 18-24 months well-child check up. The screener shows that your child may have a greater chance of having autism-but IS NOT a diagnosis. Your pediatrician should be able to give information about getting a completing a full evaluation with a qualified team of professionals. Only qualified individuals will be able to provide a diagnosis.
If a diagnosis for autism is given for your child, you will want to contact your early intervention provider and/or school district to make them aware. Both resources should be able to provide access to specific treatments relative to autism. Services through your residential district’s early intervention programs and schools are free of charge. An early diagnosis will provide children (and their families) access to services that will aid in their progress (www.autismspeaks.org).