With all these new statistics out, Autism is skyrocketing to the forefront of diseases and diagnosis. Many parents are forced to ask themselves the scary question at some point in their young childs life, “Does my child have autism or PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder)?” It is a hard question to ask and even harder question to answer. Lets be real about this, almost all parents have a little denial and will justify behaviors. Its natural, we have all done it, and then the confusion starts.
As a family, we have been through the mud and watched these Autism symptoms unfold right in front of us and would like to share our experiences and discoveries along the way. In hopes that someone will see these examples and be able to get the proper help.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Autism Facts, “a doctor should definitely and immediately evaluate a child for autism if he or she:
Does not babble or coo by 12 months of age Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months of age: Does not say single words by 16 months of age Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own (rather than just repeating what someone says to him or her) by 24 months of age Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age.
These are major signs, meaning they will be the easiest to spot because they have a very tangible time frame. For example, at the 12 month mark you clearly no what to look for, and if its not happening, get an evaluation ASAP. Feel comfortable that if your child displays any of these signs you will definitely know it. One point of interest here, that can get a little fuzzy, is the last one. When your child begins to speak or say a word, it is very easy to mark it off the warning signs and forget about it, but try to pay attention, and remember if your child could once say something like “mama” or “dada” and then just doesn’t say it anymore. Doesn’t seem like much but it can be a major sign. Our 4 year old began saying “dada” and “baba” very early and we didn’t even realize he had stopped until he was having and evaluation and they asked. Then it dawned on me…that he stopped saying those words when we stopped prompting him. We wrote if off as learned, but in truth it was simply echolalia
Next comes the fuzzy, vague, Autism symptoms that are easily overlooked or simply denied. These are some “red flag” points to keep in mind if you feel something is missing and you don’t know what to do. These early Autism Signs are designed to help you decide if your child needs and evaluation. Remember, an evaluation is not bad, it is good for an large number of reasons.
The child does not respond to his/her name:This is the easiest to write off. It looks like your 2 year old is ignoring you. With our son it took about 5 times calling him before he would respond to his name on a good day. Once he responded with a smile we felt he was just playing around. Then a couple times, after 10 repetitions of his name he still didn’t respond. I approached him and tapped his shoulder and he acted startled, as if he didn’t know I was in the room. He wan’t just playing around. About that time I began to realize that this was a very viable symptom of Autism.
The child cannot explain what he/she wants: Our son still cannot fully explain what he wants at 4 years old. If your child has made it to 3 years old then this will be a very serious sign of Autism. I have had nieces and nephews who didn’t start talking until 3 and therefore could not explain what they wanted. This is very difficult to see in very young children, so go with your intuition. If you feel your child cannot figure out how to communicate their wants or needs, believe your feelings. They are usually correct.
Language skills or speech are delayed. This was the number 1 symptom of Autism that made us go to a doctor. We felt that he was having more difficulties than just being able to think up the words. He was not even attempting to use words. We have been round and round with our therapists about this theory. My nephew did not say an audible word until he was over 3 years old. He is in first grade now and doing fantastic. Our son did not even try to speak. He would just stare at us, as if he had nothing to say, or was confused at how speech would help. If your child is making NO attempt to speak, maybe its time to get an evaluation for Autism. Another good reason to keep this in mind is that is gives you the right to get an evaluation. Even if there is no Autism or PPD, you will still get a quality evaluation of how your child is progressing, and that never hurts.
The child doesn’t follow directions. All I can say for this one is, what child follows directions?
At times, the child seems to be deaf. Our son displayed this on occasion. If it appears to happen once or at the most twice, get an evaluation. A doctor who specializes in Autism and understanding Autism signs will be able to read body language and response rates more accurately than a parent. Like before, it took one time for my son to be surprised that I was calling his name to make me curious.
The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.Same as above, even though your mind tells you that it’s nothing, your child is just silly, or focused on something, or just playing around…be weary. Kids love attention and calling their name is exactly that.
The child doesn’t point or wave bye-bye.This would be the number 2 Autism Symptom that made me realize something is wrong. For a child, saying or waving bye bye is fun. They usually get a ton of attention and praise for it, therefore creating a want to do it every time. Our 4 year old with Autism still needs prompts to say bye bye, our 2 year old who does not have Autism says hi and bye to everyone, even when he wakes up he says hi mama or dada. This one is easy to see. Its very clear, if you prompt your child any time after 2 years old to say bye bye or wave and they don’t you clearly have an early sign of Autism.
The child used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn’t. As stated before, this one is deceiving. It is natural to hear that first word that sounds like mama or dada or baba and get excited and then forget it. Most importantly, check to see if you child will use these words without you saying it first. Echolalia is prevalent in nearly all cases of Autism. Bascially they are just copying you. Like a bird who copies “pretty bird” it is very similar. If you say “baba, want a baba” and 2 minutes later your child says “baba” its easy to believe they came up with it on their own. In many cases they did, however, look closely to see if your child appears to have forgot how to say “baba” if you can say to yourself “he/she just doesn’t want to say it anymore for some reason” that reason just may be an early sign of Autism.
The child throws intense or violent tantrums. We were lucky here in that our son was diagnosed with PPD and we are now hearing things like “High Functioning Autism” so we were never part of the violent tantrums. But this happens often when early signs of Autism begin to appear. Many kids hit, and throw things when upset. This symptom is different, and you will just be able to feel it. Intense would have long periods of very loud and abrasive screaming, kicking, or hitting. The violent would be just that, very often violent toward other people or animals. I have witnessed these and they are very clearly different than a normal tantrum. Self harm is sometimes involved, but many times it is the very very obnoxious screaming and trying to hit or hurt someone else.
The child has odd movement patterns. AKA “Stims” this is the definition of Autism these days. Stimming or odd movement patters. Our son had stims at a very young age, but were very normal looking behaviors. Unfortunately, those behaviors came at the wrong time. Our son loved to jump up and down, and it appeared to be just like any other child. But we noticed it was only happening when something he liked was happening, for example a movie he liked, or a big truck driving by. He also would move around like he was dancing. This happened especially when a movie he liked came on so it appeared normal. But he began to do it everytime, like clockwork. Children will dance, but not every single time. He has progressed through the common stims such as spinning in circles, flapping hands, stomping feet, and now he acts out his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine scenes with his hands.
The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.Again, this is the same as many many 2 year olds. They don’t call them the terrible 2′s for nothing.
The child doesn’t know how to play with toys.This is a great sign of Autism if you know what your looking for. Typical behaviors amongst kids with the same toy is just that…typical. Little things such as when playing with a truck, they spin just the wheels instead of driving it around. Another good one to look for is toys that have defined playing patterns. Like a train track or a hotwheels garage, where they are designed to either drive the train on the tracks, or watch the cars go down the ramp to the garage and your child doesn’t do that, or even attempt it. Our son would just lay on the ground and run the trains back and forth to watch the wheels go around. Also, when other kids were around, he would not sit and play with them, if they came to play with his toy, he would just get up and leave.
The child doesn’t smile when smiled at. This sign of Autism is a very clear one. Simply look into your childs eyes and smile, if they smile back, great. If they don’t smile back, chances are they won’t even make eye contact.
The child has poor eye contact. Poor eye contact is they key words to this Autism Symptom. Our son would occasionally make eye contact. It was usually very brief but it was eye contact. We still have to prompt our 4 year old to look at us when he says hi, or bye. Our 2 year old son who does not have Autism will stare into our eyes and wait for a movement, like a game. It is very easy to tell when there is poor eye contact. You will just feel it.
The child gets “stuck” on things over and over and can’t move on to other things. Many children with signs of Autism will begin to get into patterns. As if they can’t leave or finish a task without displaying that behavior. For example, our son goes to speech therapy. At therapy there is a train set on a table. He will play with the trains and line them all up on the track. When the therapist comes to get him, he absolutely has to knock all the trains off the track first, before he can go it. if he doesn’t get to do that, he has a very hard time working in speech. Its like he remembers he didn’t get to do that, and that is all he can think about.
The child seems to prefer to play alone. Our son has always done his own thing. With tons of cousins and nieces and nephews around to run with, and play imagination games like house with he would never join in. Like I said before our son would simply walk away when others wanted to play with him. It looks like he has an agenda and just doesn’t want people to bother him, but in truth it is much more than that.
The child gets things for him/herself only. Our son will go to the pantry and get out chips or fruit snacks for himself to eat. He will allow his brother to come take some, but he was not getting it for both of them. When my niece is here, she will get into the pantry and ask if she can get fruit snacks for her and my son. Essentially they both end with the same outcome but the original motivation was for my son to get fruit snacks for himself and nobody else even crosses his mind.
The child is very independent for his/her age.Again, this is a misleading sign of Autism, because an Autistic child is not simply independent for their age, they do not understand how to interact with other people, nor do they have a desire to interact with others. Our son seems very independent, he can play by himself, swim by himself, he doesn’t need other children to interact with him in order to entertained.
The child does things “early” compared to other children.Autistic children often become able to get some things going early. Its not necessarily a sign of Autism unless they excel one thing and are delayed in all others. For example, our son could put together a 100 piece puzzle by himself around 2 1/2 year old, he could also count to 20. Yet he could not kick a ball, still can not catch a ball, and can not speak fluently enough to understand very much of what he is saying. He can now handle a 200 piece puzzle the first time seeing it without any help.
The child seems to be in his/her “own world.”This symptom of Autism was somewhat of a gut feeling for us. We would say this exact phrase to eachother and to people around us. We almost used it as an excuse, “yeah he is focused, he just in his own world.” But we began to see that children are not suppose to be in their own world, the excessive “day dreaming” appearance was hindering him for interacting with anyone else, and also making it harder for him to change.
The child seems to tune people out. Don’t we all, its called selective hearing, and its taken me 30 years to develop what my son could do in 3 years.
The child is not interested in other children.Again, this one becomes very clear. Take your child to the park with other kids, and watch. Children will naturally gravitate towards eachother to see what is going on. Our son will let other people come up to him, talk to him, and even try to play along, he simply ignores them and goes about his business. If they leave he doesn’t seem to notice. Rarely does he walk up to another child and try to interact. Meanwhile, my niece has made 5 best friends in a matter of 10 minutes and my other son is trying to hug everyone, there is a drastic difference here and if you look for it, it become very apparent.
The child walks on his/her toes. This is another interesting symptom of Autism. Many typically developing children will walk on their toes. They are experimenting with their muscles and probably playing around. This particular sign lasts a long time, our son spent about a month walking on his toes everyday, it wasn’t all day long, but we would catch him just walking around with his heels up 3 or more times a day for short periods of time.
The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants)This is a sign of Autism that we haven’t seem much with our son. He does have a slight obsession with Thomas The Tank Engine. He doesn’t really display any ritualistic behaviors, occasionally lining all his toys up. From talking with people it is very similar to our son needing to knock all the trains down before speech. The difference is they have a serious breakdown when the schedule or order changes. Again, this usually happens in the more severe cases and should easily be detected.
Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order. One major early sign of Autism that all of our doctors and therapists asked as one of their first questions was if our son lined everything up. In our case, he did not. He started the behavior after the diagnosis and he only lines up his trains, cars or trucks nothing else. However, many typically developing kids do not line things up in a perfect line, or order, so this too will be very easy to notice.
It’s important to keep in mind that every child is different and these are all very fuzzy. If you begin to notice a little bit of one or more of these symptoms it is a good time to get an evaluation. If you notice symptoms of Autism, it is never too early to get checked out. The earlier the better. That may just be what has helped our son out so much. Also, these are just tips to help you decide, if you begin to believe your child is displaying signs of autism and maybe need an evaluation.
Remember that your parental intuition is the greatest factor when determining signs of Autism, or seeing developing Autism symptoms. Getting an evaluation will be the very best thing for you. If you are fortunate enough to have a false alarm, you will be able to leave with a very good judgement of how well your child is developing. Good luck and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them, we loving hearing all stories and love to help in any way possible. Its a curious and scary ride, but I would not change it for anything.