Nearly every parent has seen their child throw a temper tantrum or have a “meltdown” over seemingly little things. Children are constantly learning and being bombarded with different stimuli everywhere they go, and each child will react differently to the same situations. Occasional meltdowns are to be expected, but it can become worrisome if your child becomes agitated or upset over everyday occurrences multiple times a week.
One possible sign your child could have ADHD is that they have emotional outbursts or have trouble explaining their feelings. However, it is also possible that your child may just be “acting out” due to other circumstances such as being bullied at school, having a friend move away, or other events that seem life-altering to them at the time. Learning the signs and symptoms of ADHD is a start to helping you either rule out the possibility of ADHD, or to seek a professional’s help and diagnosis for your child.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Some people, and even other parents, can be quick to say that all kids have trouble sitting still and focusing. But these aren’t the only signs and symptoms of childhood ADHD. There is a wide range of symptoms ADHD can cause, including :
While it is likely that most children will display these signs at some point, it is important to notice if your child is regularly displaying ADHD symptoms in different environments. For example, it makes sense if your daughter thinks math is boring and is prone to daydreaming in her algebra class. However, if she seems to be unfocused in most of her classes and while she is at home with family, this can be a sign of ADHD.
Another sign of ADHD is that one or more of the listed symptoms is starting to impact your child’s life in a negative way. This can be shown through fighting with peers, falling behind in school work, forgetting to do assignments, or other events. If your child’s grades are beginning to slip or they’re getting in trouble with teachers for not completing their homework, it may be time to seek help from a psychiatrist or therapist.
Why Do Kids with ADHD Act Out?
As mentioned, emotional outbursts or temper tantrums can indicate ADHD. These meltdowns can cause your child to become angry, inconsolable, and defiant. While it is difficult for parents to watch their child become so upset, it is important to know why children with ADHD act out at certain times.
Advice for Parents.
It is recommended to ask your child’s doctor or psychologist for a professional diagnosis and treatment plan if you suspect your child has ADHD. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, one of the most important things you can do is to establish a consistent daily routine for your child. This minimizes the chances they will forget something, and it will lessen arguments about when it’s time to go to bed, eat dinner, or do homework.
Counseling is a great way for your child to learn how to process and express their emotions in a healthier way. Seeking a therapist’s help can make a positive impact in your child’s life by teaching them skills they can utilize for the rest of their life, such as coping strategies for boredom, learning how to communicate better with peers, and channeling their energy into creative outlets. Oakville Wellness Center allows parents to view profiles of several qualified therapists, schedule appointments online, and there are even convenient weekend and evening hours available.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
If your child has received a diagnosis of autism, you probably have several questions about what to do next, where to find services to help your child, and what you can do to help your child at home. You may even question the diagnosis and wonder if it could be something else. Does your child avoid eye contact because they’re on the autism spectrum, or are they simply very shy? Are your child’s odd fascinations a symptom of autism, or simply a quirky personality trait? If you find yourself asking these questions, rest assured that you’re not alone.
How Often is Autism Misdiagnosed?
In 2012, researchers ran a study and tracked 1,400 children who were diagnosed with autism. By the time the children reached 8 years of age, 61 of these children were no longer diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Researchers noticed that most of the children who lost their diagnosis of ASD had been diagnosed before they were only 30 months old.
However, almost all of these children who were no longer classified as having ASD were diagnosed with at least one other condition, such as a language delay or ADHD. Dr. Blumberg, who conducted a study on older children with autism states: "Our study suggests over-diagnosis of ASD may occur and may be more common than expected. But our study also shows that some children are said to have lost the diagnosis due to treatment or maturity.”
Conditions That May Be Mistaken for Autism
Professor and psychologist Tony Attwood says, ““I would say that between 10% and 25% of children diagnosed with ASD will not be classed as having the disorder as adults.” This can be due to early intervention or treatment, or it could have been a different condition than autism all along. In young children, potential signs of ASD may overlap with symptoms of other conditions and lead to misdiagnosis. Some conditions can include:
How to Approach a New Diagnosis
Dr. Epstein, a neuropsychologist and specialist in diagnosing ASD, believes that doctors need to have the full picture of the child’s behaviors and symptoms before making a diagnosis. She thinks the process should be a comprehensive assessment including:
What to Do After Receiving a Diagnosis
If your child is found to have ASD, ask your child’s doctor about early intervention programs. These programs will help your child receive the help they need, and are usually highly successful in teaching children useful skills such as communicating with others, finding coping skills, and managing their behaviors. For more guidance on ASD-related issues, feel free to reach out to Dr. Syras Derksen.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
Secondary school is a whirlwind of changes for all teenagers, but it can be especially overwhelming for those with autism. Getting used to a new environment, different teachers, and all kinds of social rules can cause significant anxiety for teenagers with autism, and you may be worried about how your own child will respond to the stress.
To help your teen thrive academically and socially, it’s important to allow them to have more freedom, help them ease into the new routines, and make sure they get the resources they need.
Autism During Teenage Years
Chantal Sicile-Kira, author of the book Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum, is also a public speaker dedicated to helping parents raise and understand their children with autism. She reports that many parents tell her that their child’s behavior seems to be getting worse as they reach their teenage years, but Sicile-Kira thinks this is simply a misunderstanding. "The teens are not getting more noncompliant because their autism is getting worse. It's because they're teenagers," she states.
Just like every other teenager, your teen will crave independence. They may become more moody due to hormonal changes, and they may not want to talk or listen to you as often. However, unlike their peers, teenagers with autism usually don’t have the same outlets to express their teenage woes. Their moodiness may manifest in different behaviors, such as frequent mood swings or becoming non-communicative at times.
It’s crucial for parents to remember that those on the autism spectrum tend to have trouble identifying and expressing their feelings, and puberty may cause unfamiliar emotions. During hormonal and physical changes, your teen might not understand why they feel upset or sad. They may also be confused as to why they need to make changes in their routine, so try to clearly explain the reasons to them. Being patient, direct, and encouraging can help your teen get off to a great start.
Challenges of Secondary School
As your teen enters secondary school, they will likely face more challenges than their peers. Most people have common knowledge about how to navigate social situations and know what’s OK to discuss and what should remain private. Teens with autism may have more trouble fitting in because they don’t necessarily understand the social rules that seem like “common sense” to their peers. Along with communicating, teenagers with autism might face other challenges including:
What You Can Do to Help
Beginning a new routine can be a turbulent and frustrating time for your teen. To help them transition into secondary school and make sure they continue receiving support, it’s recommended to create a transition plan. Depending on your child’s wants and needs, the plan may be more detailed, but the basic aspects of a plan include:
Secondary school comes with many challenges, but with the right support, patience, and understanding, your teen will excel and thrive. For more guidance, reach out to Dr. Syras Derksen.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
According to this study, about 90% of parents who have a child with autism noticed symptoms by the time their child reached 2 years of age. Autism spectrum disorder can cause developmental delays or other noticeable symptoms in infants and toddlers, but some children with autism may develop normally and show no observable signs of the disorder. However, because autism is on a spectrum, the severity of symptoms varies and affects every individual differently. A significant number of children with autism may not exhibit any common signs until they begin school.
One parent of a child with autism mentioned in an article that, “My child is developing behavioral problems. That’s because he can’t communicate well at school.” School can cause numerous difficulties for children on the autism spectrum due to the changes that occur in their environment and routines. The stress of school may increase the severity of symptoms, influencing how a child interacts with others, learns, or behaves.
Signs of Autism in Grade School Students
Signs of autism may become noticeable when a child begins school because they tend to have difficulty with different aspects of socializing with others. A child with autism may have difficulty taking turns in conversations, reading the reactions of others, or having conversations about what others want to talk about. Other possible effects of autism in children include:
Signs of Autism in Teenagers
It can sometimes be difficult to notice autism in children if they appear to be doing well in school and don’t seem to have any symptoms that are typical of those on the autism spectrum. However, the onset of puberty, high school, and increased expectations of their achievements may cause the signs of autism to become more apparent. Some common signs of autism in teens include:
Autism in Females
Many people diagnosed with autism may also develop a mental illness, but undiagnosed autism may lead someone to develop mental health issues as well. Psychiatrist Ian McClure has reported that females especially are developing mental health difficulties because they haven’t yet been diagnosed with autism. Girls are most commonly underdiagnosed because the diagnostic criteria for autism is more typical for boys’ behavior and symptoms, while girls may deal with their symptoms differently.
Teenage girls are usually better at studying other people’s behavior and copying them to mask their symptoms, and quieter girls are usually thought of simply being shy rather than unfocused or disinterested. If they show signs that are more typical of autism, such as severe anxiety when their routine is changed, they may be misdiagnosed with a mental illness instead.
One woman wasn’t diagnosed with autism until she was 28 years old, but she had been misdiagnosed with several mental illnesses including bipolar depression and borderline personality disorder. She said that learning she had autism changed her life, and it’s much easier to manage her symptoms now that she finally has an accurate diagnosis.
Advice for Parents
If you think your child may be on the autism spectrum or dealing with a mental illness, it’s important to talk to a child psychologist who does autism assessments and your child’s doctor. The earlier a diagnosis is reached, the sooner your child can learn how to manage their symptoms, succeed in school, and communicate with others.
If your child or teen is found to have autism, there are some ways you can help them adjust to school and other life changes. Try to go with your child to school about a week before classes begin. Show them where their classroom and bathroom is located, and walk around the school with them so they can be better prepared for the first day of school. Getting involved in your child’s school, such as joining the PTA, can help you get to know your child’s teacher and meet other parents who may also have children with autism.
Outside of school, therapy might be helpful if your child or teen is dealing with high levels of stress or anxiety, behavioral issues, or seems overwhelmed. A therapist can help them work through their emotions, find healthy coping mechanisms for stress, and provide an outlet for your child’s frustrations. Scheduling an appointment at Oakville Wellness Center can be simply done online, or you can call for more information.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
Over the past decade, multiple awareness groups and campaigns have dramatically increased the public’s general knowledge about autism spectrum disorder. There have been changes made to the diagnostic criteria to more accurately identify the signs of autism. As a result, more children are being diagnosed with autism today compared to ten years ago. While there has been some public fear and panic about an “autism epidemic,” autism diagnoses are on the rise simply because autism awareness has made it easier for people to recognize early signs.
So, What is Autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a type of genetic condition that usually causes individuals to have repetitive behaviors and difficulty communicating and interacting with others. The autism spectrum covers a broad range of severity and symptoms, and not all people with autism will have significant impairments. Some people with autism may only have mild symptoms, whereas others may have severe difficulty with communicating, learning, and processing stimuli.
In some cases, signs of autism may be recognizable in infancy, and medical professionals can accurately diagnose autism in children at just 2 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends scheduling both regular developmental screenings throughout childhood, as well as specific autism screenings when your child is 9, 18, and 30 months old.
Signs of Autism in Infants
Autism can cause some developmental delays in infants, so it Is important for parents to notice if their baby isn’t reaching certain milestones. For example, it is common for 12-month-old babies to laugh, make different facial expressions, and babble. It can be a cause for concern if your child turns a year old and hasn’t been displaying any of these behaviors. Recognizing signs of autism in infants doesn’t involve actively looking for symptoms, but rather noticing a lack of normal behaviors such as:
Signs of Autism in Toddlers
Autism can cause a number of social, behavioral, and communication differences by the time your child reaches 3 years of age. Around this time, signs of autism can become more apparent when your child is around other kids their age, as they may not respond to other children at all, or they might have trouble noticing facial expressions. Social and communication differences in children with autism can include:
Children with autism may have some noticeable behaviors by the time they are toddlers. These behaviors tend to be repetitive or obsessive, which can be difficult for parents to understand. Physical manifestations of autism, especially in young children, are typically ways for them to manage anxiety, block out unliked stimuli, or simply to pass the time. Some examples of these behaviors may include:
What to Do If You’re Concerned
If you think your infant or child may be on the autism spectrum, you should schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician for an autism screening as soon as possible. When it comes to your child’s health, you shouldn’t take the advice to just “wait and see” if the signs improve or disappear. Visiting your child’s doctor will allow them to give their professional diagnosis, as well as recommend early intervention programs for your child.
Early intervention has been extremely successful for children by helping them develop social skills and learn how to manage challenging symptoms. If you believe your child needs more assistance with communication, Oakville Wellness Center offers other resources, as well as qualified speech-language pathologists who can help your child become more comfortable with social interactions.
It is normal to feel worried about your young child and what their future holds, but it should be reassuring to know that autism is becoming widely understood and accepted across the country. People with autism today have more opportunities to speak out about their experiences, find employment, and have better support in their education. With early intervention and support from you, your child should expect a bright future.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen