Autism is one of the most debilitating conditions with which a child can be diagnosed. Often, the signs of autism may go unnoticed for a year or longer, leading the the loss of valuable time and intervention strategies that can lessen the severity of the condition. While there are always things that can be done, noticing the early signs of autism is one of the best ways to help those who may be afflicted.
The good news is the signs of autism are usually very easy to spot. However, the bad news is that even though the signs are readily apparent, it may take a while for a parent or guardian to associate those signs with autism. Fortunately, as better awareness over autism is being stressed, the signs of autism are being connected with the condition at increasingly earlier stages in many cases.
As autism is a condition that affects both development, behavior and communication, the signs of autism often appear across all fields. Developmental signs could be easier to spot in some younger toddlers, especially as normal communication development happens over a wide range of ages. Despite this, communication difficulties should not be discounted.
Developmental signs of autism include the lack of imaginative play and the preference to play alone. Children are generally very sociable and like to be around other people, especially those in their own age groups. Therefore, those who consistently play alone, and refuse to even acknowledge others, could be candidates for an autism spectrum disorder.
Communicative signs of autism include the lack of eye contact with other individuals and delayed, or non-existent, speech development. Many may mistake these two signs as a hearing problem. In fact, many suspicions that lead to an autism diagnosis start as a concern about hearing. Autistic individuals usually fail to maintain eye contact for all but a second or two and will likely not develop speech as quickly as other children.
The speech development is a very unusual characteristic of autism in that speech may develop normally for a period of time. However, by the age of approximately 2 years old, a child will suddenly lose nearly all verbal speech. No one is quite sure why this happens, but if it does, it is nearly always one of the surest surest signs of autism.
Behavioral signs of autism are varied and may or may not be exhibited by all children, depending on the level of severity of the autism. These signs include rocking back and forth constantly, walking on the balls of the feet, emotional outbursts, and laughing for seemingly no reason. Alone, these may not mean much, but if a child exhibits more than one consistently, this may be cause to seek a professional opinion.
It should be noted the term autism covers a wide spectrum of disorders. Therefore, those afflicted with the condition may not exhibit all the signs. Further, the signs of autism that are exhibited may be to a varying degree. If any parent or guardian suspects they may be seeing signs of autism, it is critical to have the child checked by a medical doctor, to rule out physical causes, and a mental health professional.