I think my child is showing autism symptoms. Now what?
It’s important to note that not every child has the same autism symptoms that could be considered a part of the autism spectrum. Not every child will display the same autism symptoms. There are however, many signs of autism in children that you can be aware of.
Forget about Rain Man and what you may consider one to be autistic.
The suspicion is there. For parents autism symptoms are heartbreaking. I know that we went through the phases of consideration, talking to his pediatrician about our suspicions and many key signs were passed off as him being a “late bloomer”. Geez, looking back that talk really pisses me off. In fact it is these conversations and my compliance at the time that really pisses me off. “How could I have been so stupid and weak, lazy really to have accepted his answer?” What I believe now is back then I wanted to think there was nothing wrong. I’m partially to blame.
For some parents it’s about the fear of the diagnosis and for some it’s about relief. For many more it’s a mixture of the two with autism symptoms. No matter how you feel about it, there’s no question that your next step between suspecting autism and getting an actual diagnosis is a big one.
For one this process can be lengthy to start. Depending on the child’s age, your location in a city or rural area, the school system (if they are apart of one yet), the insurance you have (or don’t) your options will vary. This process too can be frustrating and in my opinion, for me was like waiting for a terminal illness report back for my livelihood.
My advice is to start early. Think you have suspicion go get some appointments. Get the referral and book the assessment. Once you have that, depending on the state you are in (if in the USA) there are mandatory benefits with the official disability (by the way, it is a disability and get over the term – it’s a term and will prove beneficial in the long run) that vary from state to state and can work in your favor.
We had private insurance (United Health Care) and only could get an assessment through an official provider. In our larger city we had two convenient options in reality, two major hospitals. And each waiting list was 4-5 months out for an assessment. In order to get that situated we needed a referral from our pediatrician, the prescription for the assessment and then insurance approval. From the start to assessment to the 3 weeks after until we received the diagnosis the whole process took almost 6 months.
Remember it is a “spectrum” and speech, socialization, physical, sensory, emotional or behavioral can all be a part of the challenges you’ll face.
Speech Challenges Associated with Autism
- Being a late developer with talking, minimal or speech going away when other kids they’re age is exploding.
- Non-verbal; learning little or no language at all
- Echolalia: repeating words, phrases or sounds over and over that ave no reference or intention to the situation at any given time. This can be a sound, a toy noise, app sound, tv song, machine, car, etc.
- Learning certain phrases then making up new sentences or word replacement
- Intonation, sounding monotone or in a sing-along that is of the first tone they repeat. No variation in a tune or chant
- Uncommon verbal ways of communication, shaking head when they mean yes or no but for the wrong response or pointing and no audible response
- Staying in the rhythm of a conversation inserting longer than normal pauses, monologue speaking, interrupting or drifting off in conversation
Autism and Socialization
Autism symptoms include challenges with social situations and socializing in general can be challenging for kids with autism.
- Eye Contact can be an issue. They can avoid people’s eyes and can make it hard for others to see if they are paying attention to them. This is also usually associated with parents wondering if the child has hearing issues as well
- Limited or absent engagement. They don’t turn or look up when you call their name or wander away when you are speaking to them
- Playing alone – many time they will not engage and prefer to be alone and play alone. They also can have a hard time interpretation of rules or taking turns in play
- Personal space considerations. They are not aware when they are in another person’s personal space or can become upset when you are in theirs
- Greetings in general; can have challenges of greeting and saying goodbye when appropriate
- Making friends. They can be challenged in playing with others or even interested in group play. They can appear frightened of others and seem “off” to other kids in their age group because the lack of interaction
- Rigid and repetitive play. Some toys will be played with in a specific way that is not intended. Spinning wheels at length, lining up toys or blocks or stacking them
Autistic Physical & Sensory Behaviors
Sensory processing is a part of the spectrum. Having difficulties with certain sounds, light and textures in food and clothing can be common and children will sometime do things to compensate for these. For instance certain noises will be “too loud” and the child will cover their ears frequently.
- Stimming or self-stimulation behavior is a frequent response for a child on the spectrum. They will engage in repetitive behaviors such as tippy-toe walking, flapping hands, snapping fingers, jumping when not appropriate and enjoy doing the same things over and over.
- Preferences to touch: being squeezed, finding comfort in certain types of touches
- Stimulated and attracted to certain visual experiences: fan spinning, certain colors, brite lights, etc.
- Certain noises are unbearable and disturbing to the child
- Irritation to certain clothing, tags, shoes, socks, wanting to be naked
- Threshold to pain that is higher than normal; sensitivity to cold or hot showing signs of notice to certain extreme temperatures
- Delayed motor skills such as crawling, walking or hand-eye coordination; appearing clumsy
- Picky eating or drawn to certain types of foods; limited food wants
- Sleep patterns and ability to relax
- Typical toilet skills are late or severely delayed
Autistic Emotional & Behavioral Traits
Children with autism symptoms can be volatile. Conditions of ASD can also be stressful and children will get emotional and may not be able to understand or control emotions.
- Anxiety is common and many children are not able to communicate. Anxious feelings can escalate quickly as well if something triggers them.
- Rituals are common and can be confused with OCD-type behaviors.
- Being obsessive and this can come in many forms. If a child is able to speak they may speak about an interest for hours with no one listing or interested responding
- Emotional regulation; ability to control emotions and being easily upset
- Shy and sheltered; ability to tune others our and not integrated or wanting to be a part of activities with family, school or groups
- Recklessness; self-damaging behaviors are traits of ASD
Steps for an Autism Assessment
Since our brains are still growing and more flexible when a child is younger it is advised if any of the above conditions may be suspect for your child that you get them an autism assessment. Seek a proper diagnosis with an accredited facility. Becoming educated and having access to tons of autism-related supplies will be important for you moving forward helping your child.
Research has shown, and my son is a testament to this that the earlier the intervention the better chance you can have to help support, grow and alter their behaviors and conditions. There is always reason to “give them some time” at the advice of others however I can honestly say that the sooner the better (and it is never too late) will give you the proper direction and piece of mind.
I have an Autism Diagnosis. Now What?
Breathe, take a minute, maybe get a good nights sleep.
Come back and read my other article on what to do when you get an autism diagnosis that no one ever told me to do.