Autism is a developmental disability that affects an average of 1 out of every 110 children in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It occurs in more often in boys than in girls. Some of the main symptoms of autism are difficulties with social interactions, problems with both verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviors and obsessive interests. Because ASD is a spectrum disorder, symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe.
People with autism have difficulties with social interaction and social relationships. Many feel uncomfortable making eye contact with others and are not able to read facial expressions and other non-verbal body language. Additional social symptoms include:
- In young children, will play alongside another child but doesn't play with the child
- Does not form friendships with other children the same age
- Does not share enjoyment or interests with other people
- Difficulty having empathy, understanding how others may feel.
Most children with autism are delayed starting to talk. Another form of autism, Asperger's Syndrome has similar social and communication difficulties but do not have a delay in speaking. Some individuals with autism remain non-verbal throughout their lives. Other communication symptoms include:
- Difficulties starting and maintaining a conversation
- Repeating words and phrases over and over
- Literal thinking, difficulty understanding the use of humor or sarcasm in conversations or understanding implied meanings
Many individuals with autism develop intense interests in a specific topic. It is similar to a hobby but the intensity of the interest can dominate time and conversations. Young children may be fascinated with parts of a toy, such as a wheel and spend time focusing only on that part rather than playing with the toy. Older children and adults may be interested in one specific topic, spending time researching, reading and learning about it. The topic will dominate their thoughts, time and conversations with others.
Individuals with autism may also have an intense need for certain routines or structure. When eating dinner, they may need to eat their food in a certain order or not be able to eat if different foods touch on the plate. They may need to follow the exact same routine each morning, becoming frustrated if the routine is interrupted or they are not able to complete it.
Some people with autism rock back and forth or flap their hands.
Medical professionals are often able to detect signs of autism in children as young as 1 year old. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some of the early signs that would indicate you should seek medical help are:
- No smiling or happy expressions in babies from six months on
- No babbling by 1 year old
- No "sharing" of baby sounds, such as smiling, sounds, or facial expressions with caregivers, from 9 months on
- Not responding to name by 12 months
- Not pointing to objects to show interest by 14 months
- No words by 16 months
- No spoken phrases (two words together) by 24 months
- Loss of speech, at any age
Some children seem to develop normally up until about 2 years of age and then they lose skills and stop gaining new skills.
Early intervention programs are beneficial to children with autism so parents seeing any of the signs should speak with their doctor about autism. Early intervention programs help children from birth to age 3 and help develop skills such as walking, talking and social interactions.
"Autism Fact Sheet," Updated 2011, June 15, Staff Writer, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health
"Autism Spectrum Disorders: Data & Statistics," Reviewed 2010, May 13, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"Facts About ASDs," Reviewed 2010, Dec 29, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Published On: June 26, 2011