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Autism is a developmental disorder with a wide range of signs. Many of these traits are shown through communication and language difficulties. It can be challenging to diagnose autism early on, but there are certain signs to look out for. In particular, there are signs you should look for at home, and diagnostic tools that your doctor can use to determine whether or not your child is autistic. Scroll down to Step 1 for more information.
1 Assessing Your Child at Home
- This spiking and diminishing of traits can occur up until approximately 24 months. Signs should be taken seriously, but some children show delays and then catch up developmentally by the time they’re 24 months old.
- Does not make eye contact.
- Sleeps in an awkward position.
- May be highly sensitive to certain sensory stimuli.
- Talks in an unusual tone or pitch; this may be displayed through an unusual babble.
- Carries around specific items for extended periods of time.
- Makes repetitive movements with their body or hands (stimming), especially to express emotion or calm down.
- Plays with toys in an abnormal fashion.
- May appear under-active, or disinterested.
- May be hard to soothe, not liking to be cuddled.
- Shows signs of being highly fussy.
- Before 6 months: No big smiles or joyful expressions
- Before 9 months: No mutual sharing of sounds, smiles or other expressions.
- Before 12 months: Lack of response to their name, no gestures like waving, pointing or reaching in response to your own gestures.
- Before 16 months: No spoken words.
- Before 24 months: No original two-word phrases. May rely on echolalia. This does not include imitation.
- Examples of fine motor skill problems include being unable to color correctly, or difficulty using scissors to cut paper.
- A child with gross motor skills may take a long time to pack up books or put on jackets, and be the last one out to recess.
- If you have any concerns, talk to a doctor who specializes in autism, rather than your normal medical provider.
- Keep in mind that the abnormalities may be due to something else, such as ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, or anxiety.
2 Seeking Medical Diagnosis
- What signs you have noticed
- When you began noticing the signs
- How severe the traits are
- A neurological exam.
- Genetic testing.
- Other lab tests.
- For example, one observational period may involve the doctor giving your child a specific toy and watching how your child plays with the toy.
- Cognitive assessments: This may be in the form of an intelligence test, or some sort of cognitive assessment.
- Speech evaluation: A specialist will focus on your child’s speech, and how she communicates. The specialist will be looking for signs directly related to autism. These may be strange tones, or lack of response to verbal cues.
- Adaptive assessment: This will test your child’s problem solving skills in real life scenarios. These can be tasks like feeding themselves, or simply testing their verbal skills.
- Sensory-motor tasks: A physical therapist will observe your child’s motor skills, and sensory processing skills.