With special thanks to The National Autistic Society (NAS), here are the leading symptoms that can help you recognize autism in your child.
Autism is a developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates with, and relates to the world around them. It is often called a ‘hidden’ disability because you can’t always tell if someone has it by looking at them. But for people with autism, everyday life can be confusing, meaningless, or even frightening. They can find it incredibly hard to make sense of the world, and understanding and communicating with other people is particularly difficult.
Parents are often the first people to spot that their child isn’t developing in the same way as their peers. There are five indicators that are known as red flags for autism. If you observe any of these specific symptoms you should contact your health professional immediately.
- No babbling by 12 months
- No gesturing (pointing, waving, bye-bye, etc.) by 12 months No single words by 16 months
- No two-word spontaneous (not just echolalic) phrases by 24 months
- ANY loss of ANY language or social skills at ANY age.
Currently the minimum age for diagnosis is two years, but it can occur much later. Because autism is a spectrum condition, it affects people in different ways. Some are able to live relatively independent lives, but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. Below you’ll find several characteristics shared by people with autism. Please keep in mind that since autism is a syndrome composed of subgroups disorder, people may vary in the symptoms
1. Literal perception of the world
People with autism take everything they see and hear literally. For example, if a friend were to ask, “What’s up?” an autistic person would inadvertently turn towards the ceiling or sky in order to find the answer. Therefore, colloquial sayings, sarcasm, and jokes quite often go misunderstood. People with autism perceive the world literally, and they believe everyone else does so as well.
2. Lack of empathy
People with autism have great difficulty in understanding other people’s emotions, feelings, or points of view. It can also be hard for them to understand facial expressions or even tone of voice. Because they cannot pick up on these ‘unspoken; elements of communication, they often misunderstand what people are saying or feeling, and are commonly misconceived as insensitive.
3. Impaired communication
Just as they have trouble understanding others, people with autism often have trouble expressing their own emotions and thoughts. This leads to frustration and anxiety, and in extreme cases, can cause a meltdown when their senses become overloaded. Some people with autism display echolalia and repeat words or phrases they have heard before in order to communicate. For those people with autism who are unable to use verbal communication, other non-verbal forms can be successful such as picture exchange communication system (PECS) or sign language.
People with autism find social interaction difficult. This makes it hard for them to form relationships and can leave them very isolated. People with autism often describe feeling like a tourist in a foreign land, surrounded by strangers and unable to understand or speak the language. Despite often being eager to form friendships, they find it extremely difficult.
5. Failure to recognize social cues
As humans we have an innate ability to recognise the nuances of social cues, such as when to speak and when to stop speaking. We learn by experience which topics of conversation are appropriate, and we differentiate private and public discussions. People with autism do not have this innate ability. Additionally, people with autism may have difficulty recognizing personal space and maintaining eye contact, as these intense human interactions are just too overwhelming for them.
6. Love of rules
Generally speaking, people suffering with autism adhere to whatever rules are in place and will be unusually concerned with not breaking them.
7. Love of routines
Similar to rules, people with autism prefer routine and find unexpected changes difficult to deal with. Often people will have a daily routine that they adhere to such as sticking to the same waking time, meal times and the same meals throughout their life. Presenting a new and unfamiliar situation to someone with autism can be problematic and requires careful planning so to reduce any anxiety it may cause.
8. No apprehension of imminent danger
Because people with autism lack social imagination, they are often unable to predict future events. This can mean they that are unable to anticipate dangerous situations and can make them very vulnerable. Children with autism often run out into busy roads because they cannot understand the inherent danger in their actions.
9. Special Interests
One of the features of autism is special interests or obsessions. This could mean obsessively lining up toys, or colour-coordinating their closets, but it could also mean that they have particular hobbies or special interests. These can include trains, movies, following a sports team or collecting items. The obsessions may change over time and there may be several special interests at one time.
10. Repetitive Movement Patterns
Arm flapping, feet stamping, or rocking are all common among people with autism and are collectively called stimming. This stimming can occur when a person is either anxious or contented.
Diagnosis for autism can be a lengthy process, and parents are likely to see a number of specialists, including paediatricians and psychiatrists, before an official diagnosis is made. For parents, receiving a diagnosis will involve a real mix of emotions from grief and anger, to relief or even guilt. Both parents may feel very differently and cope with a diagnosis in different ways. Having a diagnosis can help explain your child’s difficulties and provide access to services and support. Whilst autism is incurable, the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference.
If you are a parent and you suspect that your child may have autism, don’t delay in getting help. More information and support can be found by contacting the following places.
The National Autistic Society
393 City Road, London,
Tel: +44 (0)20 7833 2299
Ministry of Health Republic of the Seychelles
P.O. Box 52, Mont Fleuri
Republic of Seychelles
Tel: +248 388000
Autism Society of America
4340 East-West Hwy, Suite 350
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
Tel: +1 800 328 8476