What is Autism? Which is also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), Autism is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder characterized by deficits in communication and language development, social interaction, such as social reciprocity, cueing into nonverbal behaviors used for social interaction, and skills in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships. In addition, the diagnosis of ASD requires the presence of restricted, ritualistic and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. I realize that is very wordy and may seem overwhelming to hear for families; however, years of research state that early intervention is key in integrating individuals with the diagnosis.
As a parent, what are the signs to look out for to determine if your child has autism? Here are some questions you should ask yourself if you suspect your child has autism.
1. How is your child with identifying familiar voices and people? Often times the lack of eye contact is a tall tale, unless the child’s vision is impaired.
2. Does the child engage in any form of play? Is he/she attending to his surroundings and eyeing the other friend or fiend in that toddler’s mind or is he/she engaging in stereotypic behavior? Is the child staring at the ceiling fan, engaging in peripheral gazing, or doing the same movement over and over again? This could be an indication that these maladaptive behaviors serve as barriers in helping the child acquire skills.
3. How does your child communicate? Infants typically communicate their needs and wants by crying; however, when infants turn 6-months they typically start babbling. At the 12-month mark, if the child is still not vocalizing I would recommend consulting with your child’s pediatrician or a developmental pediatrician.
4. Does your child display of stereotypic behavior such as hand flapping, peripheral gazing, spinning toys that are not meant to be spun or engaging in stimulatory behaviors? Is your child engaging in behavior that some might consider unusual or inappropriate?
If you suspect that the child has autism, consult a developmental pediatrician sooner rather than later. Research has proven that early intervention is key to help the child reintegrate. In the meantime, try not to panic. Each child is different, but we believe that it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Sarah is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst based in Sacramento California. She currently works with children ages 1.5 to 6.5 years old at Applied Behavior Consultants, Inc, and has been in the field working with clients, at ABC’s Center Based Program, she has also worked with families in-home, for clients at care homes, and in their school placement. She has been in practice for 15 years.