Understanding the Autism Spectrum: Signs of Autism and What Your Child Needs

When your child shows signs of autism, a diagnosis can confirm the degree to which they fall under the autism spectrum. A diagnosis, however, is not a life sentence. Early intervention through education and therapy can help your child develop into a successful, fulfilled individual.

Autism is a spectrum of closely-related neurological disorders that impairs communication and enhances repetitive behaviors, currently affecting at least 1 in 70 individuals. Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are born with the condition, although symptoms may not be noticeable until the child is preschool-aged or older. However, recognizing the signs of autism is crucial to obtaining an accurate diagnosis and optimizing the child’s chance for scholastic success and social fulfillment.

Signs of Autism in Children

While trained professionals, such as teachers and doctors, may be able to identify when a child might be autistic, noticing the signs of autism often begins at home. As a parent, you or other family members may pick up on the signs of autism in your child without even knowing what it means, often recognizing ASD indications much earlier than medical professionals. While the child may be physically healthy, there can still be a sense that something is “different” or “atypical” about their emotional, social, or intellectual health. Some of these signs may include:

  • Inability to maintain eye contact
  • Verbal delays
  • Failure to mirror facial expressions
  • Choosing to play alongside other children instead of with them, which is known as “parallel play” on the Play Observation Scale
  • Missing developmental milestones that the child’s siblings are meeting or have met

Confirming a Diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum

Sometimes the symptoms associated with ASD are flagged during an annual doctor’s visit. However, if you are curious about the possibility of your child having autism, scheduling a screening appointment with a pediatrician can validate or alleviate your concerns. Other resources, such as local school districts with preschooler assessment programs may also be able to provide a primary developmental screening.

If signs of autism are indicated, the child will be referred for a comprehensive evaluation. These evaluations usually include medical exams, hearing tests, speech and language tests, observation, and interviews with you.

Medical specialists, such as pediatric neurologists or child psychologists, will confirm if your child is on the autism spectrum, which has varying degrees depending on the individual. Some children, for example, will be diagnosed with “high-functioning autism,” like Asperger’s Syndrome. Others may have less-specific diagnoses and fall under an umbrella of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), or atypical autism. In any case, autism is not curable, but your child can benefit from receiving:

  • A primary treatment plan
  • Broader awareness from his or her family and community, including your childcare providers, teachers, and religious leaders
  • Early intervention services

The Importance of Early Intervention with Autistic Children

The benefits of early intervention are as endless as a child’s capabilities. Often times, it makes a priceless impact on future quality of life, independence, and productivity. The sooner autism is detected, the sooner that treatment can be administered and dramatically improve a child’s unique abilities.

Brain development increases exponentially during the first few years of life, so children’s brains are much more likely to be receptive and responsive to learning different behaviors during this stage than they are later in life. By diagnosing an autistic child and utilizing early intervention services at an early age, their minds can be geared in a more helpful direction that will change the course of their life.

One particular study conducted by Dr. Geraldine Dawson, a leading clinical child psychiatrist specializing in neurological disorders, showed that early intervention (between ages of one and three) could boost IQ by 15 points. The child-centric, customized therapies and education provided through early intervention can also:

  • Enhance the child’s cognitive development to improve learning outcomes and self-esteem
  • Establish legal protections for the child
  • Reduce the child’s stress, frustration, or anxiety
  • Improve speech and social interactions to the point of being non-detrimental
  • Decrease the need for special education, tutors, or other costly care providers

If your child is displaying signs of autism, let us become part of your family’s support group. Contact Integrity, Inc. for more information about how to confirm an autism spectrum diagnosis and how early invention services can help your child succeed and grow.

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