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ABA Therapy

Recognizing Autism In Children: 5 Common Signs To Watch For

What is Autism and How Can It Be Identified?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals differently and can present a wide range of symptoms.

The CDC describes symptoms of ASD as “having problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention.”

The signs of autism in children can be seen as early as six months old, and diagnosis can be done by a healthcare professional as early as 18 months.

You can learn more about what a diagnosis is and the steps to get one here.

Early detection and intervention are crucial in supporting children with autism and promoting their development – the earlier, the better the long-term outcome can be.

What Do the Signs of Autism Look Like?

Autism is a spectrum, so the underlying symptoms vary from person to person. While the symptoms of autism can be seen as early as six months, many children aren’t properly diagnosed until they are five years old. This can be due to the wide range of symptoms that vary from case to case.

Often, the first sign is a missed childhood milestone, but it’s important to remember that children develop at different rates, with or without autism, so this is not definitive.

Some Common Signs of Autism Parents Can Look For?

1. Impaired Social Interaction

One of the primary indicators of autism in children is impaired social interaction. Children with autism may struggle with the following:

  • Not being able to hold or avoiding eye contact

  • Not responsive to their name by nine months

  • A lack of facial expressions showing emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, or surprise by nine months

  • Using few or no gestures by a year-old (waving goodbye)

  • Does not point to show you something interesting by 18 months old

  • Showing a lack of empathy for others’ feelings by the age of two

  • Avoidance or no interest in joining children playing by three years old

  • Lack of imagination or pretend play by the age of four

2. Communication Difficulties

Another prominent sign of autism in children involves difficulty in effectively communicating needs and wants. This can manifest in various ways, such as delayed language development, a limited vocabulary, or repetitive use of words or phrases (known as echolalia).

An estimated 30% of children with ASD are nonverbal; some speak only in grunts, others have few words, some may be good communicators when comfortable, and others may not have the ability to express their feelings or needs at all.

The CDC’s Developmental Milestones say that children should be learning to speak by the end of their first year and able to speak in one to two words by two years old.

3. Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests

Children with autism often exhibit repetitive behaviors such as stereotyped play or showing an intense interest or preoccupation with specific topics or objects. These behaviors can range from repetitive body movements (e.g., hand-flapping or rocking) to rigid adherence to routines or rituals.

Some of these could include repeating words or phrases, repeatedly listening to the same song, or playing with toys the same way every time it’s time to play. It may seem like obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it could be a version of self-stimulation that eases anxiety and stress.

4. Sensory Sensitivities

Heightened sensory sensitivities are frequently observed in children with autism. This is called hypersensitivity or “hyperesthesia,” which is defined as an increased sensitivity to our senses of:

  • Sight

  • Sound

  • Touch

  • Smell

It can affect one, multiple, or all senses. Less common, but still a possible sign, is the exact opposite – a lack of sensitivity of the senses. Each child has a unique experience and may be over or under-responsive to different stimuli. It solely depends on the child’s preferences.

They may be overly sensitive or under-reactive to sensory stimuli such as:

  • Loud noises

  • The way some clothes feel on their skin

  • Bright lights

  • Certain textures of food

  • Crowded spaces

These sensitivities can significantly impact their daily functioning and may lead to discomfort, meltdowns, or withdrawal in certain environments.

5. Difficulty with Changes and Transitions:

Children with autism often struggle with changes in routines or transitions from one activity to another. They may become distressed or exhibit challenging behaviors when faced with unexpected changes in their environment or daily routines.

They prefer and tend to find comfort in predictability. Setting a routine in learning habits is part of why ABA therapy works so well.

In the event of a schedule change, using visual boards, direct communication, and even social stories explaining the situation so they understand what to expect can help ease into the change. For example, marking an upcoming vacation on a calendar and sharing what it’s like to pack, travel, and go on vacation.

How ABA Therapy is Effective for Growth?

Recognizing the signs of autism in children is essential for early intervention and seeking a diagnosis from a healthcare professional – but it’s only the first step! Next to receiving a proper diagnosis, seeking the therapy company that works best for your child is the most important step.

Applied Behavior Analysis, or aba therapy, is widely recognized as an effective intervention. Each child receives an individualized program unique to their journey that uses a systematic approach focusing on promoting positive behaviors while reducing challenging behaviors.

In conclusion, ABA therapy provides a structured and evidence-based approach to address the unique needs of children with autism. This form of therapy is individualized, emphasizes positive reinforcement, focuses on skill acquisition, and promotes the generalization of skills. ABA therapy offers children with autism the opportunity to develop essential skills, improve their overall functioning, and lead more fulfilling lives.

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