Sunday, March 30, 2008

Signs of Autism

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and play activities. Today, 1 in 166 individuals is diagnosed with autism. One should keep in mind however, that autism affects each individual differently and at varying degree. By learning the signs, a child can begin benefiting from specialised intervention programs.

Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age two or three, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as six months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. An early diagnosis followed by early intervention provides the best prognosis for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Could your child be showing signs of AUTISM?
Some of the following may be indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorder. No single indicator necessarily signals autism- usually a child would present with several indicators from some of the following categories. If you are concerned about your child’s development and are seeking a diagnosis, a developmental paediatrician or psychologist will be able to provide your child with a developmental assessment.

Not responding to his/her name by 12 months
Not pointing, waving, showing by 12 months
Loss of words previously used
Speech absent at 18 months
No spontaneous phrases by 24 months
Selective hearing, responding to certain sounds but ignoring the human voice

Social Skills
Looks away when you speak to him/her
Does not consistently return parent’s smile
Lack of interest in other children
Often seems to be in his/her own world
Is unable to follow simple instructions such as “give me your shoes”
Does not follow your gaze to locate an object when you point

Has inexplicable tantrums
Has unusual interests or attachments
Has unusual motor movement eg flaps arms, rocking, walking repetitively in circles
Is overactive and/or uncooperative
Has difficulty coping with change

Afraid of some everyday sounds e.g vacuum
Uses peripheral vision to look at objects
Eats a very limited range of foods
Preoccupation with certain textures e.g the feel of certain fabric or surface

Prefers to play alone
Does not engage in pretend play such as feeding a doll by 18-24 months
Does not bring you items to look at by 18 months
Has very limited social play such as “peek a boo”
Play is limited only to certain toys or themes e.g “Thomas The Tank”
Plays with objects in unusual ways such as repetitive spinning or lining up

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