The moment you suspect your child could have a developmental disorder is devastating. Perhaps your younger child isn’t doing a lot of the things an older sibling did at his or her age. Or maybe your 18 month-old started to develop communication skills and then stopped speaking entirely.
As a parent, you’re in the best position to identify developmental delays and spot the earliest signs of autism. While it can be difficult to acknowledge your child has a problem, catching it early and seeking treatment – ideally by the age of 18 months – can make a huge difference in how your child learns and grows.
What is autism in children?
Autism (also called autism spectrum disorder) is a series of closely related developmental disorders characterized by social interaction difficulties and communication challenges. Autism spectrum disorder appears in infancy and early childhood, causing delays in how a child learns to play, talk, and relate to the world around him or her. Symptoms and challenges can be mild for children on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, or they can be severe and interfere with everyday life.
Signs and symptoms of autism in children
The symptoms of autism in children typically surface between 12 and 18 months. While the earliest signs can be tricky to spot, you’ll have a better chance if you know what to look for.
Your child may have autism if your baby or toddler doesn’t:
Respond to his or her name
Point, reach, or wave “hello” or “goodbye”
Make noises to get your attention
Make eye contact when being fed
Smile when being smiled at
Respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up
Imitate your facial expressions
As children get older, the signs of autism typically revolve around social skills and language difficulties. Symptoms include:
Not knowing how to connect with others or make friends
Not liking being touched or hugged
Doesn’t seem to hear when others are talking to him or her
Doesn’t play “pretend” games or use toys in creative ways
Repeats the same words and phrases over and over again
Doesn’t understand simple questions or directions
Takes what is said too literally; humor and sarcasm don’t register
Doesn’t pick up on others’ facial expressions
Assumes abnormal postures and is clumsy
Has difficulty adapting to changes in schedule or environment
Fixation on a very specific topic of interest, usually involving numbers
Repetitive behaviors like hand flapping or rocking back and forth
Autism is a treatable disorder for children in San Diego
Early and intensive intervention is the best way to reduce the effects of autism and improve learning, communication, and social skills in affected children. Because each child on the autism spectrum is unique, what works for one child may not work for another. A combination of approaches may be required to achieve the best results. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following strategies: