How do you know if your child has Autism?

How do you know if your child has Autism?

It is relatively common for parents or guardians to want to be aware of the signs of autism in children. Many parents familiarise themselves with the typical developmental milestones that their child should be reaching, along with the main signs of autism in children. By being aware of these signs, parents and guardians can ensure that their child accesses the correct professional care should they need it.

What is Autism or ASD?

Autism – also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – is a neurological condition that is expressed during childhood, and which persists into adulthood. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity. Asperger’s syndrome is a term no longer used but refers to a “high functioning” type of ASD.

Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease: it means your brain works in a different way from other people. ASD is not a medical condition with a “cure”, but specialist psychiatrists can support individuals with autism if they need help to live a happier day-to-day life.

It’s not clear what causes autism. However, ASD can affect people in the same family, so may sometimes be passed on to a child by their parents.

Signs of autism in children

Autism in young children

In younger children, signs of autism may include:

  • not responding to their name
  • avoiding eye contact
  • not smiling when you smile at them
  • becoming very distressed by certain tastes, smells or sounds
  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
  • not talking as much as other children
  • repeating the same phrases

Autism in older children

Signs of autism in older children may include:

  • lacking understanding of what others are thinking or feeling
  • finding it hard to explain how they feel
  • liking a strict daily routine and getting very distressed if it changes
  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • getting very distressed if you ask them to do something
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own
  • taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like “spill the beans” or “under the weather”

Do the signs of autism differ in boys and girls?

The signs of autism might be harder to spot in girls than they are in boys. Autistic girls can have a tendency to be quieter so their symptoms are not as obvious: for example, autistic boys may make it more obvious that they are not coping well with a social situation, whereas girls may just ‘blend in’ quietly. Girls with autism may hide their feelings better and appear to be more shy than boys, so autism can be mistaken for a personality trait (‘she is shy’) rather than a neurological condition.

At what age does Autism become apparent in children?

The autism diagnosis age varies widely. Sometimes, infants show signs of ASD in their few first months. However, in other children signs of ASD only start to become obvious when they reach the age of 2 or 3.

Autism can be difficult to spot as there is not one clear test for it. Often, not all children with autism show every sign. And conversely, many children who don’t have autism will show a few signs. It can be confusing, which is why if you suspect your child may have ASD it’s crucial to consult a specialist as soon as possible. A specialist psychiatrist can help you obtain an accurate assessment and diagnosis.

The following is a guide to the signs of ASD to look out for at each stage of your child’s early development:

By 6 months

  • Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions
  • Limited or no eye contact

By 9 months

  • Little or no sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions

By 12 months

  • Little or no babbling
  • Little or no gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving
  • Little or no response to their own name

By 16 months

  • Very few or no words

By 24 months

  • Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

If your child exhibits any of the signs above, contact your GP or get in touch with a specialist ADHD clinic who will be able to help you further.

Helpful information for parents

It is important to remember that autistic people can live a full, happy life, especially if they receive the correct help and support where required. Being autistic does not mean that your child will not make friends, have relationships, or get a job.

It is called autism spectrum disorder for a reason: autism is a spectrum, which means that every individual who has autism is different. Some people living with autism need very little support, or even none at all. Others may require daily help from a parent or carer. The key is obtaining an accurate diagnosis, and from this decisions can be made around the best ways to manage the condition.

If you think your child may have autism, Sanctum clinic can help. We are a private specialist Autism clinic based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We understand that you may be feeling confused and anxious, and we are here to reassure you that support is available.

We can offer an autism assessment within 24 hours of you getting in touch with us, and you can expect to receive a diagnosis within two weeks. Based on the diagnosis, we can then start to help you plan a pathway to a happier, healthier future for you and your child.

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