In the past few decades the rate of autism diagnosis has grown dramatically. In the 1980s, the prevalence of autism was generally recorded as 1 in 10000 children. Today, 1 child in every 88 is diagnosed with the disorder. Thanks to a deeper understanding of the condition, and a wider medical consensus on the warning signs, parents and caregivers can now learn to recognize the signs and take appropriate intervention steps.
For any parent that is worried about the development of their child, understanding the key warning signs will ensure that the right treatment can be given. Early diagnosis and proper care will ensure the best quality of life throughout childhood, adolescence, and adult years.
Early Signs of Autism That Can Appear Before 12 Months
Autism can be diagnosed at an early age, often around the first year of a child’s development. Although the condition can be highly varied between sufferers, the following signs are generally considered to be indicators that autism spectrum disorder exists. The more signs that are present, the more important it is to observe behavior and consult with a medical professional.
Lack of Gestures and Common Interactions
Developing children share common characteristics before they learn to effectively communicate. Gestures like pointing, showing objects to a parent or caregiver, or reaching to be held or to hold things, are all signs of normal development. The lack of these common interactions and gestures can be an indicator of autism.
Children are inherently curious and this is evident in the way that they interact with toys and other objects. When a child shows abnormal interactions, such as repetitive movements like continuously playing with a toy or object in an unusual or inappropriate way, this could be a warning sign that autism is present. Repetition is not just limited to interactions with objects, but may be physical movements that a child repeats. Continuously tapping, flapping hands, or other movements, can all be early warning signs.
Lack of Eye Contact
Sufferers of autism struggle with social interactivity, and this can develop at a very young age. Poor eye contact or a complete lack of it, can suggest that a child has autism. Babies, toddlers, and young children should make regular and instinctive contact with the people that they are close to and familiar with. Children that don’t make eye contact while communicating, may be showing one of the common symptoms of autism.
Not Responding to a Name, or a Familiar Voice
Early autism signs are sometimes misinterpreted by parents as hearing difficulties. Children with autism can have difficulty understanding language or associating sounds with people, and may not respond to the voice of parents or even to their own name.
Not Displaying Babble or Signs of Imitation
Before children learn to communicate effectively using a spoken language, they will babble typical sounds such as ba, gee, brrr, da, etc.
Children that are unusually quiet or who do not produce typical sounds, may already be displaying problems with their social and neurological development. They may also be less likely to imitate parents, siblings, caregivers, and other children. Imitation is an important part of learning and should be natural for most children.
Focusing on Objects Rather Than People
Autistic children will often place a disproportionate amount of focus on objects rather than on people. Many parents describe it as their children living within a ‘bubble’ and being disconnected from the world around them. A child that displays an unhealthy focus on inanimate objects rather than on the people around them, can indicate that autism is present.
Childhood development is complex, and the presence of one or two of these symptoms will not always mean that a child is suffering from autism. By using these signs as a guideline, parents will be able to describe behavior in detail, whenever consulting with a doctor. Early detection leads to more effective treatment, providing an autistic child with their best developmental pathway.
META: Autism diagnosis rates are growing year on year. Learn the early warning signs of Autism to ensure that proper diagnosis and care can be provided.