Finding that you are pregnant is a joyous, life changing moment for any woman. Preparing to fall in love for a lifetime, your pregnancy is a magical time knowing that your life is going to change in an unbelievable way. Once your bundle of joy arrives it will immediately hit you that you are really a parent. You are responsible for this new piece of life in your hands.
Although an amazing journey, nothing can fully prepare you for your experience as a first time parent. Babies don’t come with a manual set in stone.
As our children grow, we may notice differences about them that we worry about. Noticing these differences early can make a huge difference in your child’s future development. Autism is one example of this, and by recognising the signs of autism early, you will be able to get your child the help they need to grow, learn and succeed.
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can often be spotted in a child’s early years. It often causes delays in a child’s basic areas of development such as learning to play, talk and interact with other children and adults.
The symptoms and signs of autism can vary hugely, as does the impact it has on a child’s life. Some children may have more obstacles to overcome than others. However, children on the autistic spectrum all have problems to some degree in these areas:
- They struggle relating to the world around them and to other people
- They struggle with communication – non-verbal and verbal
- They struggle behaving and thinking flexibly
Many doctors and experts have different opinions on what causes autism and what works best when it comes to treatment. However, almost everyone agree that early intervention is key. But don’t worry if your child isn’t an infant, as there are lots of options available to help your child thrive.
What are the Warning Signs?
Parents know their child better than anyone else, so they are the ones most likely to spot the possible signs of autism. The best thing to do is to get some knowledge on what is typical behaviour and what isn’t:
Keep an eye on your child’s development – Autism is usually spotted when a child begins suffering from developmental delays. Make sure your child is meeting their emotional, social and cognitive milestones.
Speak out if you’re worried – All children are different, so some small delays might not be anything to worry about. When it comes to a child’s development, there’s a huge range of what’s typical and what’s not, so don’t worry if your friend’s child is walking at 9 months, but your child still shuffles on their bum at 12; this is perfectly normal. However, if you’re worried that they’re not meeting a number of their milestones, then it’s a good idea to get some support and advice from your doctor. Remember, you know your child best.
Don’t agree to wait – Lots of parents who are concerned are told to “wait and see” or “not to worry”. But not getting help early is the worst thing for your child’s development, as children develop quicker at a younger age, and so you don’t want to waste this opportunity. Children who have developmental delays aren’t likely to grow out of them.
Trust your gut – Find a doctor that will really listen to you and take your worries seriously. Listen to your instincts, if they’re telling you that something’s wrong, then they’re probably right. Seek a second opinion, book another appointment with the doctor, or ask for a referral to a specialist.
Signs and Symptoms in Babies and Toddlers
Autism is hard to diagnose prior to 24 months, but symptoms often start to appear slowly between 12 and 18 months. A child who has treatment at 18 months of age may be able to undertake intensive treatment to help reduce the symptoms they experience.
Often babies who have autism can be misinterpreted as good babies because they may seem independent, quiet and undemanding. However, these are warning signs that your child may have autism. Toddlers who don’t reach out to be picked up, don’t respond to cuddles, and don’t use eye contact may also have autism. Some common signs and symptoms are:
- Your child doesn’t make eye contact
- Your child doesn’t follow hand gestures such as pointing
- Your child doesn’t respond to their name
- Your child doesn’t make noises to get attention
- Your child doesn’t imitate your facial expressions or your movement
- Your child doesn’t wave hello or goodbye
- Your child doesn’t play with others
- Your child doesn’t notice if you hurt yourself
Signs and Symptoms in Children
Usually as children get older, there are more ways to tell if a child has autism. The main signs and symptoms involve:
Speech and language difficulties – your child’s speech may have a strange rhythm or pitch. They may also repeat questions instead of providing you with an answer. Many children with autism struggle communicating their wants and needs.
Impaired social skills – your child might not show any interest and may struggle connecting with others. Children with autism also struggle understanding feelings.
Non-verbal communication difficulties – your child may not like to look people in the eye. They may also use expressions that don’t match what they are talking about.
Inflexible behaviour – your child may like to follow a set routine and may struggle adapting to change. One example of this is potty training. Potty training an autistic child can be extremely hard as the child doesn’t like change. They will often prefer to stay in a diaper than use a toilet. If you’re struggling to toilet train your autistic child, then visit https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-potty-training-guide/. This useful guide will talk you through how to effectively potty train your autistic child. The Autism Parenting Magazine also offers lots of other brilliant advice on children with autism when you subscribe, and your first issue will be free.
Children who are on the autism spectrum are usually inflexible, restricted and obsessive in the way they behave, with the activities they do and with the interests they have. If you’re worried about your child, then it’s important to get them diagnosed as soon as possible.