Catching autism early can save many years of struggle and heartache, both for parents and kids. No parent wants to believe their wonderful child may have difficulties with social development. However, it is important to understand that just because your child is different, this does not mean they are better or worse than other kids.
With the right early intervention, kids on the autism spectrum can be taught to function better within society and even harness their special gifts. This is only possible, though, if parents know what to look for.
What Is Autism?
Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that there are a collection of related disorders that have a common core of symptoms. The term “spectrum” is used because autism can manifest in stages of severity — those on the spectrum can have mild, moderate or major symptoms.
These signs and symptoms widely vary, and the effects of autism can vary with them. Some kids who fall on the spectrum have only very minor quirks, while others are unable to effectively function in society. Common symptoms of autism involve difficulty in one or more of three areas:
Verbal and non-verbal communication
Relating to and understanding the world and other people
Flexibility in thought and behavior
What Causes Autism?
We are not currently certain what the exact causes of autism are. There is even some disagreement on how to best treat the condition. Some parents believe that their children do not need to be treated, but rather the world should adapt to their kids’ special qualities.
Most experts, though, believe that early intervention at an intensive level can be of great help to those on the spectrum. The earlier autism is diagnosed, the easier time the child will have learning to interact with the world around them.
Monitor your child’s development to make sure they are hitting normal social, cognitive and emotional milestones. If you are concerned about developmental delays, take action:
No warm and happy expressions by 6 months
No sharing of sounds, smiles and expressions by 9 months
Doesn’t respond to name, babble or make baby talk or communicative gestures by 12 months
Is not speaking by 16 months
Lack of, at minimum, 2-word original communicative phrases by 24 months
Don’t panic. A delay is not a guarantee of a problem. But don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about it. Trust your instincts, and never just wait and see.
Here are some other potential signs of autism in your baby or toddler:
Regression — develops normally, then steps backwards
Failure to make eye contact
Refusal to smile
Failure to respond to familiar voices
Doesn’t visually track objects
Does not use communicative gestures like waving or pointing
Doesn’t respond to or desire physical affection
Failure to imitate movements and expressions
Failure to play or relate to other children
These are only a few of the potential signs of autism. If you think your child may benefit from the services of a child psychologist in Edmonton, give us a call today. We are here to help.