Autism: The Signs

While a formal diagnosis will obviously need to be carried out by a medical practitioner, there are some signs to look out for if you think your child may have autism. Read on to find out more.

Boy with autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological disorder that usually lasts for a person's lifetime. Those diagnosed typically have problems with social interaction and impaired communication, and they have restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours. ASD covers the spectrum of autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder and atypical autism, also known as pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. About one in 110 people are diagnosed with autism.

Benefits of early diagnosis

An early diagnosis and positive intervention can help minimise the effects of ASD, so if you think your child may have the disorder, it's essential to seek professional help from your doctor, who may refer you to a developmental paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist. ASD is diagnosed through an assessment, which involves observing the person and testing their strengths and difficulties in the areas of social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

A good first step for any concerned parent is measuring your child's development and behaviour against the list of warning signs below. Early autism usually reveals itself in the first three years of a child's life, so failing to reach certain developmental landmarks, or the loss of particular skills, may alert you to the fact that you need to consult your doctor.

Some of the possible warning signs

(Source: Autism Awareness)

By 12 months of age

  • Doesn't pay attention to new faces
  • Doesn't smile
  • Can't follow moving objects with his or her eyes
  • Doesn't babble or laugh
  • Has difficulty bringing objects to his or her mouth
  • Isn't using any words
  • Doesn't turn his or her head to try to locate sounds
  • Appears not to respond to loud noises
  • When you place their feet on a firm surface, he or she doesn't attempt to push down with their legs
  • Doesn't like being cuddled
  • Doesn't show any affection to their primary caregiver
  • Can't crawl
  • Can't stand when supported
  • Doesn't use gestures like waving or pointing

By 15 months of age

  • Doesn't appear to know the function of common household objects, e.g. a telephone

By 18 months of age

  • Can't walk or walks only on their toes
  • Can't push a wheeled toy

By two years of age

  • Can't speak
  • Doesn't imitate actions
  • Can't follow simple instructions

By three years of age

  • Only uses very limited speech, e.g. doesn't use short phrases and has difficulty understanding simple instructions
  • Has little interest in other children
  • Has difficulty separating from his or her mum or primary caregiver
  • Has difficulty manipulating small objects
  • Has little interest in make-believe play
  • Falls frequently
  • Has difficulty climbing stairs

More parenting advice

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How to ease sibling rivalry
How-to: Teach your kids to wash their hands the right way

Tags: autism children and disabilities

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