(CMR) Knowing the signs of autism in toddlers can help parents manage these symptoms better and help their children cope with the challenges.
Autism is a developmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and impairs social skills like playing, learning, and interacting with others. There’s no known cause, but doctors claim various environmental and genetic factors can contribute to autism.
Parents.com writer Nicole Harris looks at several symptoms which may be seen in children from as early as six months.
The signs of autism may first appear when your child is 6 to 12 months old, but many parents don’t recognize the developmental delays until later. Early diagnosis is key to effectively managing autism.
Your baby might display signs of autism when she's a few months old. Some telltale symptoms: she won’t react to audio and visual stimuli and might not track objects with her eyes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, your child should grasp objects, babble, smile at people, and pay attention to faces by three months of age. By seven months, she should show affection, reach for objects, smile, turn her head in response to noise, and communicate through actions.
Finally, a one-year-old baby should crawl, point, and gesture. If your baby doesn’t meet any of these developmental milestones, visit a pediatrician to rule out autism.
Even though your child might display signs of autism within the first few months of life, most parents often don’t recognize them until later. That’s because every child develops at their own pace, and parents may not think their child’s behavior is abnormal.
Here are other early signs of autism in toddlers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
-Speaking less than 15 words
-Never using two-word sentences
-Seeming confused by the function of everyday household objects, such as a telephone, fork, and spoon
-Not responding to her name
-Not imitating your actions or words
-Being unable to push a wheeled toy
-Playing inappropriately with toys
-Not following simple instructions
-Wanting to be alone
-Repeating words or phrases
-Engaging in ritualistic behavior: “You may notice that she’ll engage in repetitive motor movements, like hand slapping and staring at her fingers,” explained Dr. Thomas Frazier, a clinical psychologist, autism researcher, and chief science officer of Autism Speaks.
-Being uncomfortable with physical contact
-Not understanding feelings or emotions
-Regressing – or losing language skills and physical abilities
Do you suspect your toddler has autism? Visit your pediatrician right away. Assessments like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and discussions about your parental observations can help doctors secure a diagnosis.
The best course of action is to start therapy as soon as possible. Intervention can help your child manage her autism symptoms, and it may also lead to a reversal of the symptoms. Dr. Frazier says that many types of interventions exist, ranging from speech therapy to occupational therapy and social skills classes. Your doctor will determine the best course of action for your child’s needs.
“Autism isn't just one expression of a condition, but multiple subtypes of a condition,” explains Valerie Paradiz, vice president of services and supports at Autism Speaks. “If your family is new to the diagnosis, take time to inform yourself in a way that’s structured and vetted” for the best results.