Autism is steadily on the rise in the last decade, which is a matter of grave concern. It is therefore important that the disorder be detected early for timely intervention and treatment. It has been shown that if autism is detected early in a child and treatment is also started immediately, the outcome is very encouraging, with improvements observed in social and communication skills along with learning abilities in children with ASD or autism spectrum disorders.
If parents are observant and also aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for, autism can even be detected as early as in a one-year-old, as has been shown by studies. Thus, parents should look out for the red flags that might point towards a developmental and learning disorder.
Signs and symptoms
Looking for signs of autism is difficult because autism is a spectrum disorder wherein each child is unique, thus displaying unique symptoms; in addition, their disabilities may be seen and thus recognized at different ages.
However, the main areas to observe, as suggested by experts, are their communication and social skills along with any repetitive or restricted behavior.
The signs to look for include:
- Child not responding when his or her name is called out
- Experiencing difficulty in making eye contact
- Experiencing difficulty coping with situations where there is loud noise (or music) or bright lights
- Displaying repetitive movements, for instance repeatedly flapping the hands
- Experiencing trouble using body language or gestures of the body to convey something and communicate, for instance, by pointing at something
- Displaying resistance to any kind of change introduced in their routine. For instance, insisting on eating from the same plate every day or wanting to eat the same meal every day
Other signs to be noticed, even in smaller babies, are:
- Not displaying any joyful or loving expressions, such as smiles or giggles, even after reaching 6 months of age or older than that
- Unable to display back-and-forth sharing of expressions, such as smiles, facial expressions, or various sounds, by the age of 9 months and up
- Not babbling even after reaching the age of 12 months and not using any words to communicate, by or after 16 months of age
- Not mouthing or uttering meaningful words, even words of two phrases, either by repeating or imitating, by 2 years of age
- Displaying lack of social skills, babbling, or any form of speech at any of the milestone ages and above
Parents must be aware of the milestones most children usually reach at various ages and look out for any warning signs noticed in their child or inability to reach those milestones. Also, play times must be keenly observed to notice red flags in terms of behavior or responses of the child.
Regular check-up visits to the pediatrician can further help to examine any warning signs; thus, visits to the doctor must not be skipped.
Heeding the warning signs early on can help with timely diagnosis and tremendously speed up the treatment and bring about improvements.