It can be hard knowing how best to meet your child’s needs. The younger they are, the less capable they often are of clearly verbalizing how they feel. This is even truer for children on the autism spectrum, as their condition often makes communication with others difficult.
How, then, can a parent determine if their child might be autistic? Only a licensed medical expert can accurately evaluate and diagnose autism, but there are things we can watch for to help tip us off.
Indeed, recognizing the telltale symptoms as soon as possible is often hugely beneficial, as studies show that receiving professional autism services early on better equips children to manage their symptoms and overcome their limitations.
With that in mind, here are three common signs of autism in children that parents should be aware of.
One of the most obvious ways autism spectrum disorder tends to present in children is through a sense of social detachment or awkwardness. As early as six months old, children with autism may noticeably avoid eye contact and/or make little to no animated facial expressions.
As they get older, they are less likely to speak in meaningful multi-word phrases, respond to their own name, or reciprocate gestures. Older children may come across as aloof or antisocial, often struggling to communicate with and understand the feelings of others.
Autism spectrum disorder doesn’t just manifest in interpersonal communication, but also through physical behavior. Studies have found that children with autism may find repetitive movements or actions soothing.
Examples of common repeated behaviors include rocking back and forth, snapping or flicking fingers, tapping their ears, scratching, hand flapping, banging their heads, spinning or lining up objects, and flicking light switches on and off. Some of these behaviors, like snapping fingers, are essentially harmless, but others, like banging the head against a surface, can cause injury.
Although children on the autism spectrum may have difficulty shifting their attention to changing stimuli and adapting to changes in a set routine, they often exhibit an extreme sense of focus, to the point of what seems like an obsession. As with repetitive behaviors, having a specific focus or narrow interests is believed to provide them a degree of comfort.
They may spend long periods watching a moving object or examining a small toy. They may become preoccupied with a specific topic, often one related to numbers or symbols, and spend time memorizing and reciting facts and figures.
These and other behaviors associated with autism may be concerning for parents, but proper care, treatment, and education can help children grow into healthy, functional adults.