Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how an individual communicates and interacts with others, how they perceive their environment, among others. Typically, symptoms of this disability show within the first three years of life. The condition can however be managed with appropriate intervention if diagnosed early in order to significantly improve sufferers’ social, communicative and cognitive skills, giving them a better quality of life.
Find 5 early signs every parent should note to facilitate getting prompt help…
1. Baby doesn’t react when name is called. Usually, a baby should react by turning to the direction their name was called, perhaps in order to spot the person’s face. If your 6-8 month old never does this, it may be a red alert.
2. Doesn’t seem fascinated by interesting things happening around. A 14-month-old who sees the gardener mowing the lawn for the first time while with you outdoors, for instance, should be able to display some element of surprise and draw your attention to the activity by tapping you and excitedly pointing towards the gardener.
If your child is hardly interested in what engages the attention of his peers or what particularly draws everyone’s attention, consider having him evaluated as children with autism often interpret things happening around them quite differently.
3. Difficulty interacting with others. Typically, children with autism love being alone and may show very little or no interest in interacting with their peers and adults alike. If your toddler still has a very hard time relating with peers during play dates by 12 months, can’t look people in the eye, hardly says ‘hello’, doesn’t use simple gestures like clapping and waving ‘good bye’, has no interest in games such as peek-a-boo or hide and seek, these may be warning signs.
4. Baby doesn’t imitate others’ behaviour. A healthy baby will typically try to copy whatever you do, even if he doesn’t recreate them perfectly. If your baby doesn’t try to imitate the funny faces you make at him as well as the words you say, for instance, even by 12 months, have him evaluated.
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5. You child doesn’t engage in pretend play. Usually, 2 – 3 year olds expressive their creative or imaginative skills through lots of pretend play. For instance, girls this age are often obsessed with their Barbie dolls, playing dress ups and putting items together for pretend cooking. Children with autism are however unlikely to engage in any kind of imaginative play.
In addition to the red alerts highlighted above, children with autism usually have delayed speech and language skills, do not smile when smiled at, may be unable to show empathy, avoid or restrict physical contact, be unable to understand personal space boundaries, may be aggressive and difficult to control, hard to comfort, have flat or inappropriate facial expressions, have difficulty conveying their feelings, repeat exactly what others say without understanding the meaning, give unrelated answers to questions asked and are often unable to understand jokes or teasing or sarcasm.
Apart from these signs, note that any concerns about how your child behaves, talks, learns or interacts with others should be promptly discussed with his paediatrician to fish out any underlying problem.
Photo credit: voice-online.co.uk