Autism symptoms can vary significantly from one child to another, which can make it hard for parents to detect. Yet, early identification is essential for ensuring the best possible outcome. If your child is exhibiting symptoms that concern you, then here is what you need to know about identifying whether or not autism is the cause.
Know the Risk Factors
Although the true cause of autism has not been found, it is known that certain factors place children at risk for developing the disorder. These include the following:
• Advanced maternal and paternal age
• Nutritional deficiencies (particularly folic acid)
• Low birth weight
• Neonatal anemia
• Exposure to chemicals during pregnancy
It is important to note, however, that many children develop autism with no known risk factors.
Check for Symptoms
Autism is often associated with delayed speech, which is why many children are diagnosed around the age of three. However, babies and toddlers may exhibit signs such as not making eye contact or responding to their name. Older children may speak in an abnormal tone of voice or say the same thing over and over. Other symptoms of autism include the following:
• Misunderstanding simple directions
• Playing alone
• Not understanding sarcasm (older children)
• Extreme sensitivity to certain sensations
• Repetitive movements or activities
• Hand flapping
• Staring at a fixed object such as a light
Seek a Medical Diagnosis
When you are worried, the best thing to do is have your child screened for autism. During the screening, a specialist will observe your child as they play to identify specific signs. They will also ask for your feedback regarding any unusual behaviors that you have noticed at home. If the screening indicates the potential for autism, then you will be referred for an additional assessment to make the diagnosis.
If autism is suspected or diagnosed, there are many things you can do. Early intervention services can help correct many developmental delays. Additionally, it is important to still continue talking and bonding with your child, even if they do not respond in a way that you would expect. By being a proactive and loving parent, you will give your child the help and support they need to learn and grow with autism.