Could Your Child Have Autism? Recognizing Signs & Getting Help

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects communication, social skills, behavior, and sensory processing. According to the CDC, about 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with ASD, and prevalence seems to be increasing. This highlights the importance of early recognition of symptoms so children can get the support they need.

If you’re concerned your child may have autism, this guide will help you understand the key signs to look for and how to get your child evaluated. With early intervention, many children with autism can thrive and live full, meaningful lives.

Could Your Child Have Autism Recognizing Signs & Getting Help
Could Your Child Have Autism Recognizing Signs & Getting Help

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability characterized by challenges with social communication and interaction as well as restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests. Because autism exists on a spectrum, symptoms can range from mild to severe and manifest differently in each child.

Some key characteristics of ASD include:

  • Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, such as limited speech, poor eye contact, lack of facial expressions, etc.
  • Struggles with reciprocal social interaction and forming friendships
  • Repetitive movements or speech, rigid adherence to routines, highly restricted interests
  • Sensory sensitivity, such as to sounds, textures, tastes, or touch
  • Developmental delays, especially in language and social skills

No two children with autism are exactly alike. ASD presents differently in every child, with varying combinations of symptoms and severity. Getting an accurate diagnosis is important to access the appropriate services and therapies.

Recognizing Potential Red Flags

As a parent, you are best positioned to spot potential red flags that could indicate autism or other developmental issues. While every child develops at their own pace, certain signs warrant discussion with your pediatrician.

Communication Difficulties

Many autistic children experience verbal and nonverbal communication challenges. This includes:

  • Delayed language development or lack of speech
  • Echolalia – repeating words or phrases verbatim
  • Odd tone of voice, such as flat, monotone, or singsong
  • Not responding to their name or other auditory stimuli
  • Struggle understanding non-literal language like sarcasm or idioms
  • Limited interest or ability in back-and-forth conversation
  • Poor eye contact and lack of facial expressions

Even children who develop good language skills may still have unusual prosody, pragmatic language deficits, and other subtle communication challenges.

Unusual Play Patterns

Autistic children tend to play differently than neurotypical children. Look for:

  • Lack of varied, imaginative play – instead, repetitive, rigid play patterns
  • Strong preference for solo play over interactive play
  • Difficulty sharing toys or play ideas with others
  • Arranging toys in meticulous rows or patterns instead of pretend play
  • Getting very upset if play routine is interrupted
  • Limited ability to transition between activities

The way an autistic child plays often reflects their challenges with communication, social skills, and restrictive interests.

Sensory Differences

Many children with ASD have sensory processing issues leading to unusual responses to sensory stimuli, such as:

  • Hypersensitivity – overresponsiveness to certain textures, sounds, tastes, etc.
  • Hyposensitivity – underresponsiveness or obliviousness to stimuli
  • Sensory seeking behaviors – intense fascination with lights, spinning objects, textures
  • Aversion to loud noises, crowds, busy environments
  • Excessive sniffing, tasting, staring, or fidgeting with objects
  • Difficulty tolerating certain clothing fabrics or tags

Other Co-Occurring Conditions

Autistic children have higher rates of certain medical and psychological conditions, including:

  • Gastrointestinal issues – constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorders
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Anxiety disorders
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Intellectual disability (though many have normal to high IQ)

Careful screening for co-occurring conditions is important, as they can exacerbate autism symptoms if left untreated.

Less Common Symptoms

Some autistic children may display more unusual traits like:

  • Hyperlexia – precocious ability to read far above grade level, but with limited comprehension
  • Synesthesia – mixing up sensory modalities, like seeing sounds or tasting words
  • Savant abilities – remarkable talents, often related to memory, math, music, art

While less common, these traits can provide clues about an autism diagnosis.

Seeking an Evaluation for Your Child

If after reviewing the symptoms your child displays some autism red flags, take action. Here are some tips:

  • Document your observations – take notes about your child’s behaviors and development to share with the doctor. Videos can be helpful too.
  • Talk to your pediatrician – explain your concerns and request a referral to a specialist for screening and diagnosis.
  • Seek an autism evaluation – a team of specialists will conduct extensive testing covering development, intelligence, communication, sensory issues, psychiatric disorders, medical history, and more.
  • Get your child early intervention services – if diagnosed, work quickly to get speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and an IEP in place before kindergarten.
  • Connect with autism resources – reputable organizations like Autism Speaks provide invaluable information and support for families with autism.

The Benefits of ABA Therapy for Autism

If your child receives an autism diagnosis, applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can provide immense benefits improving communication, social skills, behavior, and quality of life.

ABA therapy uses positive reinforcement and rewards to motivate children to learn and practice essential skills like:

  • Communication – from nonverbal to conversational abilities
  • Social interaction – making eye contact, reading social cues, initiating play
  • Adaptive living skills – getting dressed, feeding themselves, hygiene
  • Cognitive skills – matching, sorting, counting, shapes, colors
  • Managing tantrums, aggression, self-injury, or other behaviors
  • Dealing with sensory sensitivities

When started early, ABA therapy helps autistic children build critical skills to succeed socially and academically. It can reduce problem behaviors and prepare them for mainstream classrooms.

In-Home ABA Therapy in Maryland

Jade ABA Therapy provides compassionate, personalized ABA treatment right in your home with a team of dedicated Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and registered behavior technicians (RBTs).

Our ABA therapists get to know your child and family to tailor treatment to your needs and goals. We create fun activities and use positive reinforcement so your child enjoys learning. Our BCBAs continually track progress and adjust programs as needed.

With Jade ABA Therapy’s in-home services, your child receives constant 1:1 attention in a comfortable, familiar setting. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your child is thriving with their therapists.

We proudly serve families across Maryland. Get started with outstanding ABA therapy that will help your child gain skills, confidence, and independence.

Call Jade ABA Therapy in Maryland Today

Phone: (410) 616-0901

Email: info@jadeaba.org

Our team is ready to partner with you to provide life-changing ABA treatment. Call or email us today to learn more!

References

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Communication Problems in Children. (2018). NIDCD. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/autism-spectrum-disorder-communication-problems-children
  2. Bentenuto, A., De Falco, S., & Venuti, P. (2016). Mother-child play: A comparison of autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and typical development. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1829. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01829
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Signs and Symptoms. (2022). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html
  4. Crasta, J. E., Salzinger, E., Lin, M. H., Gavin, W. J., & Davies, P. L. (2020). Sensory processing and attention profiles among children with sensory processing disorders and autism spectrum disorders. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 14, 22. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2020.00022
  5. Tye, C., Runicles, A. K., Whitehouse, A. J., & Alvares, G. A. (2019). Characterizing the interplay between autism spectrum disorder and comorbid medical conditions: An integrative review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 751. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00751
  6. Bouvet, L., Donnadieu, S., Valdois, S., Caron, C., Dawson, M., & Mottron, L. (2014). Veridical mapping in savant abilities, absolute pitch, and synesthesia: An autism case study. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 106. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00106
  7. Hughes, J. E., Ward, J., Gruffydd, E., et al. (2018). Savant syndrome has a distinct psychological profile in autism. Molecular Autism, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-018-0237-1
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