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Friday, 5 April 2013

The Signs and Symptoms of Autism

In the theme of continuing awareness, today I want to talk about the signs of autism.  I want everybody to know what to look for and what the warning signs are.  Here are some of the key signs to look for, and a list of some of the more subtle signs.  There are way more factors than what I list, but it's a start!  There are resources listed at the bottom for more in-depth details.

Autism can be very difficult to detect, especially in a high functioning individual.  A number of the warning signs are things that neurotypical children do - in autism often you'll find that these seemingly "normal" things are done way too often, or that they do way too many of them.  So no need to panic if you're child does a couple of these things once in a while.  If they do a number of them on a regular basis, you may want to start paying attention, looking for other signs, and talk to your doctor.

Some of the more common and often easier noticed warning signs for autism are:
  • Not responding to sounds (4 months)
  • Not responding to their name (6 months)
  • Avoiding eye contact (any age)
  • Not smiling (6 months)
  • Not babbling (11 months)
  • No speech, or delayed speech (1 year)
  • Loss of speech or babbling (any age)
  • Not using gestures or other nonverbal communication (1 year)
  • Not pointing (1 year)
  • Not using pretend play (1.5 years)
  • Repetitive behaviours (any age)
  • Prefers to be alone (any age)
  • Not noticing parents or other loved ones (6 months)
The ages are rough, just because a child is a bit delayed is not a cause for concern necessarily.  Most people already have an idea of these signs, and most doctor's ask questions about these sorts of things at well baby checkups.  These are the major signs, or "red flags."  Now, here are some lesser thought about signs, the ones that can be trickier to nail down:
  • Turning on and off switches, opening and closing doors, watching fans spin
  • Playing with "part" of a toy, like the wheels, removing and replacing a specific part, putting something in and taking it out.
  • Lining up objects, usually a specific group of objects like cars, trains, play food, spoons, (ducks....)
  • Unable to tolerate any change in routine
  • Stares off into space
  • Sensory issues
  • Not sleeping well or strange sleep pattern
  • Unusual number of tantrums
  • Strange comfort object (ducks...)
  • A lot of food aversions, really picky
These types of signs are really tough because most children do one or another of them and don't have autism.    It's really easy to pass these things off as normal, and often times they are normal.  What you need to watch out for is your child doing a number of these on a daily basis.

The most important sign of all.  Head straight to your doctor and ask to see a developmental pediatrician:

This is a huge problem, it means something is wrong, maybe autism, maybe something else.  If you just had a new baby, if your child is sick, if you've moved...  that's one thing, a lot of kids regress some when that kind of stuff happens.  But if everything is status quo and your kid has a regression...  Take it seriously!

This list is by no means all inclusive.  There are lots of signs, symptoms, red flags, etc.  This is meant just to be informative and to bring some awareness.  For more detailed and expert information on this topic, here are some good resources:

Of course, there are countless more.  I hope that anybody who see's any of the signs I've listed takes the time to further educate themselves.  Never be afraid to talk to your doctor, they will either assure you everything is okay, or help you get the help you need.

PS.  Another quote for you "Keep calm and shine on!"

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