Developing in a unique way
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a type of developmental disability that affects people in different ways. A person with autism will communicate, interact, and behave differently. There is not a single cause or single type of symptom which makes this disability very unique to each person. Symptoms also appear differently and can start as early as in the first few months or life or can start in early childhood. Most of the time, signs appear before age 1, and if not 80-90% of parents see the symptoms by age 2. The spectrum is also very wide. Some children also “out-grow” certain behaviors. Some children show very noticeable symptoms while others have very mild forms. The common denominator is the person’s ability to communicate and interact, which all ties into social behaviors. Social skill problems are the most common difficulty people with ASD have. Relationships are hard to handle.
Understanding diagnosis can be complicated. Certain signs to watch for include:
- Preferring to be alone.
- Disinterest in talking, sharing, or playing with others.
- Not understanding emotions.
- Avoiding eye contact and/or physical contact.
For 40% of autistic children, they do not talk at all. However, some do start to talk later in life and others (25-30%) do have language skills but then lose them. Trouble with language skills might include repeating the same phrase over and over (echolalia), trouble pronouncing, delayed speech, having a robotic voice, trouble staying on topic, and not responding to humor or sarcasm.
There are also tell-tale sign behaviors. Repetitive hand motions are common like flapping or twirling. Having routines and rituals are common and a person with ASD does not like these habits to be disrupted. They can become fixated on certain tasks or habits. Pacing or feeling hyper is common. Being extremely sensitive can be a trait or having aggressiveness. Clumsiness is also a behavior.
The key is early detection. Therefore, as a parent, be sure to take notice if your child has one of the following characteristics:
- Does not smile by 6 months.
- Does not coo or babble by 12 months.
- Cannot speak with single words by 16 months.
- Does not play or have imaginative qualities by 18 months.
Doctors don’t know what exactly causes autism. Genes seem to be the biggest culprit. There is not a lab test to diagnose ASD, rather, determination is based upon observed behaviors. Every child needs to have their regular check-ups with their pediatrician. It is in fact a fallacy that vaccinations can cause autism. Having a healthy pregnancy is important. ASD is a special condition that many people still grow up to lead successful lives with. Behavior is a learned trait, so with time ASD can be addressed with different therapies and with practice these actions become more and more manageable and controlled.