While many children have slight delays in some development areas, there are signs that parents can look for as their child reaches certain age milestones, as a means of properly diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some areas to watch closely include motor skills, speech, spatial memory and repetitive behavior.
Within the first year of development a baby should be showing some activity, such as crawling and standing with some support. There is some communication, usually single words intertwined with baby babble. A one-year old generally interacts with others, like waving goodbye, grasping for something they want and other little gestures. Not all babies progress on the same time schedule, but some of the first signs of autism begin appearing at the end of the first year. They include a lack of eye contact or a blank look and stare, as well as certain repetitive behaviors, like rocking profusely.
Autism is often diagnosed around age two because that's when most signs of the disorder become prevalent. Lack of eye contact and a lack of interest in others become more obvious. Any words that the toddler did say are lost and there is no pointing or other form of communication for things they want. Other symptoms of autism include no interest in creative or pretend play and walking on tip toes. Unusual behaviors also begin to occur, such as outbursts of hitting and banging heads repetitively. There could also be some difficulty in the toddler accepting potty training.
There are situations where a baby is progressing normally and then begins showing signs of autism. For instance, a child could suddenly stop talking or begin exhibiting unusual or repetitive behaviors. Evidence of autism characteristics can begin occurring between the ages of 2 and 4. During this time, any progress in development is generally lost and signs of autism become prevalent.
Between ages 2 and 5, a number of signs of autism develop, which enable parents and physicians to better diagnose autism spectrum disorder. For instance, the child has no interest in other children or people and instead becomes fixated with certain toys, games, or objects. They are not responding to vocabulary or any language skills and they work better when there is a routine or set order. When this routine is disturbed, anger often develops. At this age, an autistic child begins developing sensitivity to sounds, touch, and certain textures. As a result of sensitivity to smell and taste, they develop fussy eating habits. Children with early signs of autism are also unable to carry on a conversation, have a poor attention span and rarely make eye contact.
Often times, a child could show mild signs of autism that become more prevalent in pre-teen years. Young teens with autism sometimes have outbursts of laughter for no reason, or outbursts of crying without cause. These are referred to as self-stimulating outbursts.
Although there is no one test to diagnose autism, doctors rely on observing the child, developmental history and conversations with the parents. With early diagnosis and intervention, children showing signs of autism can get the therapy and treatment they need to ensure a better outcome as they grow older and enter adulthood.
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