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Know the Signs

April is international autism awareness month. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect 1 in 68 children worldwide. I am dedicating my posts this month to increasing acceptance, awareness, and most importantly increasing knowledge.

When tracking a child's development, pediatricians rely on YOU to report delays in development or atypical behavior to assist in making the proper recommendations and referrals. A diagnosis (or lack thereof) comes from the doctor's observations as well as what you report your child can and cannot do. But if you don’t know what to look for, how do you know when to report a concern?

The major signs of ASD are difficulty with language and social communication. Restricted behaviors, repetitive behaviors and impairments in behavioral and emotional regulation may also be present. For example, children with typical play skills will play with a variety of toys and engage in cooperative play with others. They will feed their baby doll, roll a truck and make it crash, play dress up in costumes and build with legos. A child with rigid or restricted play skills may sit alone and unoccupied while others play. He may have an interest in only trains and roll all objects as if it were a car/ train. Read more about play skills here

Below is a short list of signs to look for; however, every individual with ASD is different and may not present with all of these signs. The lack of a “normal behavior” DOES NOT denote a diagnosis, but it is a reason to talk to your pediatrician.

1. Lack of smiling or difficulty orienting to people in a social environment

  • Babies begin to smile as early 6 weeks and should smile and laugh in response to others. Lack of this social response by 9 months is a red flag.

2. Delayed language acquisition

  • Your baby should babble and coo (babababa/ badaga) between 6-9 months. He should have his first true word by 12-15 months

3. Delays in play skills or abnormal play

4. Does not seek attention

  • Does your child gesture to be picked up or vocalize to get your attention? Does he initiate cuddling from you?

5. Repetitive behaviors or unusual body movements

  • Does your child sit in unusual positions or make unusual movements with her arms, hands, wrists or legs?

6. Limited eye contact

  • Does your baby visually track objects and people? Does your child maintain eye contact with you and others?

People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can have a range of abilities and impairments. This is why it is called a spectrum. Some individuals have above average cognitive and language abilities and others have significant cognitive deficits and may not speak at all (nonverbal.)

I cannot emphasize enough how imperative it is that you monitor your child’s development and share your concerns. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions about your child’s development. Trust me I reported lots of things to my daughters’ pediatrician and he was happy to address all of my concerns. If you have concerns regarding language or overall communication, an ASHA-certified SLP can identify a language delay or disorder.

For more information or if you have questions, send a message and we will help you get the answers you need.

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