Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex condition that affects millions of children and adults across the United States and beyond. Currently, the exact cause of autism is not known, although there are many theories behind why the condition develops.
The diagnosis of autism is just as complex as the condition itself. Because every child presents with unique symptoms and behaviors, it’s difficult to generate one-size-fits-all diagnostic criteria.
Some of the key signs and symptoms of autism involve delayed development of social, cognitive, and emotional skills. These symptoms tend to appear in children before they turn three years old and, in some children, symptoms of autism appear within the first 8-10 months after birth.
Most commonly, the symptoms of autism are more prominent and severe in the child’s early years. With the right support and treatments, these symptoms may subside as the child reaches their teens and early adulthood.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Children
There are a lot of different signs of autism in children.
Noticeable signs in their social, communication, and interaction skills include:
- Delayed speech and language development
- Not responding to their name by nine months old
- Repeating the same words and phrases over and over again (echolalia)
- Avoiding eye contact
- Difficulty concentrating in a conversation
- Showing a lack of interest in others
- Failing to show emotions and facial expressions
- Not getting involved in interactive play
- Having trouble putting their thoughts into words
- Inability to recognize when somebody is making a joke or being sarcastic
- Not being able to take turns when playing games
Children with autism may also perform very receptive behaviors, such as playing with their toys in the exact same way or focusing on certain parts of the toy, having obsessive interests, and lining things up in a specific order every time they play.
Diagnosis of Autism
If you’re a parent, guardian, or sibling of a young child and you suspect they might have autism, you can use online tools to take the first steps towards getting a diagnosis and receiving professional help.
The M-CHAT online from Action Behavior is a screening tool that you can use to identify whether or not your child is at high risk of autism. It enables you to take the first step towards getting a diagnosis. If your child scores highly on the test, further evaluation would be required to make an official diagnosis.
A further assessment might involve observing your child over a longer period of time. Healthcare professionals can see whether your child reaches developmental milestones at the expected times in their early childhood.
Generally, early surveillance and screening are enough to diagnose a child with ASD. Healthcare professionals will work closely alongside you as the parent to identify any delayed development or tell-tale signs of autism.
Once a diagnosis has been made, a unique treatment plan can be implemented to best support you and your child to protect their health and well-being.