“Autism is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by social withdrawal, by repetitive behaviors and by some kind of focal attention in its classic form. Basically, it’s an inability to relate to others.” – Harvey V. Fineberg
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not as mysterious as it used to be ten or twenty years ago. Now, we have a better understand of the spectrum, and with that understanding comes empathy and support. Children on the autism spectrum see and process the world differently than children who don’t.
They may also have a harder time socializing and understanding social cues than other children. Without knowing what autism is, or without knowing how to stop the signs, these children can often end up with an unfair expectation put on them by both their parents, teachers and their classmates.
Like the name suggests, autism spectrum disorder exists on a spectrum of different types of behaviors, and things that a child can or may have a harder time doing that most, including auditory processing, speaking verbally and communicating. How can you know when your child might have autism?
There are some classic signs, and once you get a diagnosis you can help your child better interact with the world in a way that’s safe and comfortable for them.
7 FREQUENT BEHAVIORS THAT SHOW A CHILD MAY BE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM
1. NONRESPONSIVE TO INTERACTION
Children who aren’t placed on the autism spectrum often begin interacting with the parents and the world around them almost immediately. They respond to voices and they track movement with their eyes. Babies that have autism, however, may have difficulty interacting and responding to interaction.
A child with autism may not respond to the sound of their parents’ voice or words, and may avoid eye contact.
2. DELAYED VERBALIZING
Babies begin babbling before they begin learning to speak. Before they hit the one-year mark, most children will begin to make noises with their mouth as a form of communication. Children who have autism will tend to have a delayed development when it comes to verbalizing and babbling.
If your child isn’t reaching the same milestones when it comes to babbling or even talking, as the children around them, they may be considered for diagnosis with autism.
3. DIFFICULTY SOCIALIZING
As your children grows from a baby to a toddler, they may have a difficult time socializing with the other kids, or even socializing with their parents. Most children show an interest in interacting with other people. Children with autism will be disinterested, or may find interacting with people, especially strangers, difficult and overwhelming. Autism can affect how children understand socializing. It may not be that they don’t want to – they just don’t know how.
Autism can affect how children understand socializing. It may not be that they don’t want to – they just don’t know how.
This behavior is called ‘stimming’, and it’s not a bad thing and shouldn’t be discouraged as long as the stimming is not self-destructive or harmful to the child or others. Children with autism have trouble verbalizing their feelings the way other children might be able to do. This results in a self-soothing behavior. A child who is upset and needs to calm down may take to rocking back and forth.
A child who is happy may express that feeling by wagging their hands or flapping their arms. Self-soothing helps a child deal with their emotions at their own pace.
5. LACK OF IMITATION
Most children learn through imitation. Children will repeat what their parents say and make the same kind of gestures that their parents do. They’re learning important social skills through this act of imitation. A child with autism, on the other hand, may feel disconnected from their parents or other adults and children. They often do not respond to smiling with imitating the smile, or waving back when waved to.
The autism affects how they understand and see the world, so oftentimes they may not know that you expect them to wave back.
6. TROUBLE IDENTIFYING WITH THEIR NAME
By a year old, children will often recognize their name and respond to it. They’ll also be able to understand the names of other people in the household, such as Mama and Dada. Children with autism may have a harder time identifying the name with themselves. It may be a sign to be tested for autism if they’re not responding to their name by the time they reach a year old.
7. DISINTEREST IN PEOPLE
Generally, babies and children will look to adults for what to do. They’re interested in the people around them and take part in interacting with them – babbling, pulling hair, grabbing jewelry, responding to sounds and voices. Children with autism show a marked decreased interest in other people. They have very little interest in interacting with people around them, and are often avoiding eye contact and nonverbal.
If you suspect your child has autism, the best thing to do is read up and learn everything you can. Your child is just as smart and capable as any of the other kids – they just need a little bit more help figuring out how to navigate the world around them! Getting them tested is a good plan, just in case any of the symptoms of autism could also be caused by something else.
Children with autism don’t always present the same way. Autism may present with more behaviors than others. Either way, your child looks to you for love, guidance and support.