Autism seems to be more prevalent now than it was 5 years ago, but in reality, we just got really good at finding early signs of autism an intervening earlier. Your pediatrician will now ask a series of questions when your child turns three which detect early signs of autism. In my practice, I have encountered many parents that are concerned about their child possibly being autistic. I want to give you simple and important information that can help you be aware of indicators of autism.
Children with autism tend to have developmental delays, in other words, they may not have learned to walk, talk or be toilet trained by the expected age. However, not all children with developmental delays are autistic and some children just take longer to learn certain skills. Children with autism may also have very ritualistic and bizarre behaviors, such as lining up their toys in a certain way, walking on their tiptoes, being very sensitive to certain sensations or textures and rocking. Furthermore, repetitive behaviors like repeating words and phrases, having difficulties with changes in routine and being overly focused on one interest. However, these behaviors in themselves are not enough for a diagnosis of autism. A major characteristic of Autism spectrum disorders are social limitations, difficulty making eye contact, interacting with other people or showing signs of affection. Some children may not engage in interactive play until after age 5 and it does not mean they can be diagnosed with autism.
There may be other factors preventing your child from interacting with others such as lack of exposure to other children, undetected hearing difficulties, history of trauma or separation, or personality. Autistic spectrum disorder is a complex diagnosis that entails taking in consideration environmental factors, family history and not one or two symptoms, but multiple indicators. If you are worried about your child’s behavior consult with his pediatrician who can refer you to a mental health professional.
By Giannina Reyes, LPC, NCC
Lifegrowth Marriage and Family Center