Catching Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) early in a child’s life enables parents to assist the child’s development as they grow. Children on the spectrum have different needs and often learn differently than their peers. Therefore, it is important to notice ASD before a child gets too far in elementary school.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as a developmental disorder that impacts behavior and communication by the Nation Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Children with ASD typically find social interactions difficult to interpret. Non-verbal cues like body language are also difficult to interpret. Children with ASD report that they struggle to understand if someone is teasing them or being genuinely nice.
Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:
Making little or inconsistent eye contact
Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention
Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions
Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:
Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. IE: repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
Fixating on personal interests
Getting upset by minor changes in a routine
Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
Strengths of people with ASD include:
Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
Being strong visual and auditory learners
Excelling in math, science, music, or art
What do I do if I suspect my child has ASD?
If you suspect that your child might have ASD ask their pediatrician to do a developmental screening. S/he will be able to assist you from that point as the next steps.