Early Symptoms Of Autism

Early Symptoms Of Autism

Studies suggest that early symptoms of autism may be eventually but accurately identified by the age of 1 year or even younger. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child.

The appearance of any of the suspected early symptoms of autism is a reason to have a child evaluated by a professional specializing in these disorders. In some cases, the baby seemed “different” from birth, unresponsive to people or focusing intently on one item for long periods of time.

The autism spectrum disorders are more common in the pediatric population than are some better known disorders such as diabetes, spinal bifida, or Down syndrome. Prevalence studies have been done in several states and also in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia. Prevalence estimates range from 2 to 6 per 1,000 children. This wide range of prevalence points to a need for earlier and more accurate screening for the early symptoms of autism.

The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner the child can be helped through treatment interventions. Pediatricians, family physicians, daycare providers, teachers, and parents may initially dismiss the early symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, optimistically thinking the child is just a little slow and will “catch up.” Although early intervention has a dramatic impact on reducing an early symptoms of autism and increasing a child’s ability to grow and learn new skills, it is estimated that only 50% of children are diagnosed before kindergarten.

Early Symptoms Of Autism And Social Behavior

From the start, typically developing infants are social beings. Early in life, they gaze at people, turn toward voices, grasp a finger, and even smile. In contrast, most children showing early symptoms of autism seem to have tremendous difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. Even in the first few months of life, many do not interact and they avoid eye contact. They seem indifferent to other people, and often seem to prefer being alone. They may resist attention or passively accept hugs and cuddling. Later, they seldom seek comfort or respond to parents displays of anger or affection in a typical way.

Research has suggested that although children with early symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are attached to their parents, their expression of this attachment is unusual and difficult to read. To parents, it may seem as if their child is not attached at all. Parents who looked forward to the joys of cuddling, teaching, and playing with their child may feel crushed by this lack of the expected and typical attachment behavior.

Children showing early symptoms of autism also are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues whether a smile, a wink, or a grimace may have little meaning. To a child who misses these cues, "come here" always means the same thing, whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or frowning and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interprets gestures and facial expressions, the social world may seem bewildering.

With further development, to compound the problem, children who had early symptoms of autism have difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective. Most five-year-olds understand that other people have different information, feelings, and goals than they have. A person with ASD may lack such understanding. This inability leaves them unable to predict or understand other people’s actions. Although not universal, it is common for people with ASD also to have difficulty regulating their emotions. This can take the form of immature behavior such as crying in class or verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them. The individual with ASD might also be disruptive and physically aggressive at times, making social relationships still more difficult. They have a tendency to lose control, particularly when they’re in a strange or overwhelming environment, or when angry and frustrated. They may at times break things, attack others, or hurt themselves. In their frustration, some bang their heads, pull their hair, or bite their arms.

Autism symptoms checklist for 6-12 months of age...

  • Infrequent babbling
  • Infrequent looking at the face of the interactive person
  • Infrequent vocalization in response to parent vocalization
  • Unusual movement patterns, like a way of grasping an objects, rolling over and, in older infants, crawling; odd transitions in movement from one position to another...
  • Infrequent matching of the facial expression of the parent; infants usually smile when their parent smiles at them (not every single time, but consistently enough to be noticeable); parents should expect their infant to be synchronized with them, in emotional expression and vocalization patterns
  • Reduced complexity of babbling or reduced variety in the types of sounds produced by the infant during babbling
  • Reduced response to his/her name being called
  • Reduced comprehension of nonverbal gestures (your hand out as you ask for him to “give it to me”)
  • Reduced imitation of simple movement patterns that the child can already perform on his or her own
  • Being overly “fixated” on objects or movement patterns
  • Reduced imitation of simple movement patterns that the child can already perform on his or her own
  • Reduced attempts to make you laugh. (Typically developing infants enjoy attention and do things to seek it out. If they see that they have made you laugh, they are likely to perform the behavior again to get you to laugh again or to keep your attention.)

Autism symptoms checklist for 12-24 months of age...

  • Lack of the onset of first words
  • Reduced looking to the caregiver when the caregiver is talking but not necessarily to the child
  • The primary way that you can consistently get and keep the child’s attention is when you perform a favorite routine (peek-a-boo, sing a certain song, etc.)
  • Echoing what others say without social and communicative intention
  • Lack of teasing. (Toddlers of this age have ways of signalling when they are initiating a social game. They will give a coy look, offer you a toy and then retract it as they smile, and so forth. The absence of this teasing behavior is a “red flag.”)
  • Infrequent coordination of looking at you, smiling and producing some form of communication (a word or vocalization or gesture)
  • Imitation that is reduced in frequency, atypical in form or unpaired with social connection (e.g., eye contact and/or a smile)
  • Reduced frequency or length of turn-taking exchanges (with or without objects)
  • Repetitive behaviors or sensory seeking (e.g., pressing head against caregiver, peering at the edge of a table)
  • Reduced number of play sequences (put spoon in cup and stir; put spoon in bowl then to teddy bear’s mouth) or range of behaviors that are exhibited in play. (A child who engages only with cause-effect toys or stacking blocks, to the exclusion of functional play with objects and emerging pretend play (e.g., putting a phone to her ear) should be watched to see whether there are other “red flags” present.). Early diagnosis and intervention provides a child with optimum opportunities for enhanced growth and development

Communication Difficulties

By age 3, most children have passed predictable milestones on the path to learning language; one of the earliest is babbling. By the first birthday, a typical toddler says words, turns when he hears his name, points when he wants a toy, and when offered something distasteful, makes it clear that the answer is no. Some children with early symptoms of autism remain mute throughout their lives.

Some infants who later show signs of ASD coo and babble during the first few months of life, but they soon stop. Others may be delayed, developing language as late as age 5 to 9. Some children may learn to use communication systems such as pictures or sign language. Those who do speak often use language in unusual ways. They seem unable to combine words into meaningful sentences. Some speak only single words, while others repeat the same phrase over and over.

Some ASD children parrot what they hear, a condition called echolalia. Although many children with no early symptoms of autism go through a stage where they repeat what they hear, it normally passes by the time they are 3. Some children only mildly affected may exhibit slight delays in language, or even seem to have precocious language and unusually large vocabularies, but have great difficulty in sustaining a conversation.

The give and take of normal conversation is hard for them, although they often carry on a monologue on a favorite subject, giving no one else an opportunity to comment. Another difficulty is often the inability to understand body language, tone of voice, or phrases of speech. They might interpret a sarcastic expression such as Oh, that is just great as meaning it really IS great. While it can be hard to understand what ASD children are saying, their body language is also difficult to understand.

Facial expressions, movements, and gestures rarely match what they are saying. Also, their tone of voice fails to reflect their feelings. A high-pitched, sing-song, or flat, robot-like voice is common. Some children with relatively good language skills speak like little adults, failing to pick up on the kid-speak that is common in their peers. Without meaningful gestures or the language to ask for things, kids with early symptoms of autism are at a loss to let others know what they need.

As a result, they may simply scream or grab what they want. Until they are taught better ways to express their needs, ASD children do whatever they can to get through to others. As people with ASD grow up, they can become increasingly aware of their difficulties in understanding others and in being understood. As a result they may become anxious or depressed.

Early Symptoms Of Autism And Repetitive Behaviors

Although children with ASD usually appear physically normal and have good muscle control, odd repetitive motions may set them off from other children. These behaviors might be extreme and highly apparent or more subtle. Some children and older individuals spend a lot of time repeatedly flapping their arms or walking on their toes. Some suddenly freeze in position.

As children, they might spend hours lining up their cars and trains in a certain way, rather than using them for pretend play. If someone accidentally moves one of the toys, the child may be tremendously upset. A child showing early symptoms of autism often need, and demand, absolute consistency in their environment. A slight change in any routine in mealtimes, dressing, taking a bath, going to school at a certain time and by the same route can be extremely disturbing. Perhaps order and sameness lend some stability in a world of confusion. Repetitive behavior sometimes takes the form of a persistent, intense preoccupation. For example, the child might be obsessed with learning all about vacuum cleaners, train schedules, or lighthouses. Often there is great interest in numbers, symbols, or science topics.

Early Symptoms Of Autism

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