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