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Autism: Learn the Early Signs

What is ASD?

Autism, or sometimes called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions that cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. It may affect how a person interacts, perceives, and socializes with others. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving skills of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged.
Because people with ASD think and behave differently, they might need a lot of help in their daily lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism. The condition can be diagnosed at any age, however, the symptoms only appear in the first two years of life. In a guide which is used to diagnose mental disorders called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) created by the American Psychiatric Association, people with ASD have:

  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life

Causes of ASD

Until now, the exact cause of ASD is not yet known. Recent researches demonstrate that there is actually no single cause for the condition. Most current research also suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect the development of a person which may lead to ASD. Although there is still no definite answer as to why some people develop ASD and others don’t, some of the risk factors may include:

  • Having an immediate family member with an autism
  • Having older parents
  • Metabolic imbalances
  • Very low birth weight
  • Having certain genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and fragile X syndrome
  • A history of viral infections

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Autism?

Autism impacts the life of the person throughout his or her lifetime. Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3 however, there are some associated development delays that may appear even earlier. Some children show early signs of autism in infancy such as minimal eye contact, lack of response when calling their names, or indifference to their caregivers.

Research shows that early diagnosis and intervention can lead to an improved outcome. Not all children with autism would show all the signs and symptoms. That’s why professional assessment is necessary in order to determine whether a person has autism. The following signs and symptoms may indicate whether your child has an ASD. If the signs of autism in children are present, consult your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation.

Social Interaction and Communication:

  • Limited or no eye contact
  • Fails to respond to his or her name
  • Few or no big smiles or other warm and engaging expressions
  • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech
  • Lacks facial expression
  • Doesn’t express emotions or feelings
  • Has difficulty in recognizing nonverbal gestures
  • Repeats what other people say verbatim
  • Appears unaware of other people’s emotions
  • Have a passive, aggressive, or disruptive approach in social interactions
  • Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions
  • Restricted interests

Patterns of Behavior:

  • Performs repetitive movement such as flapping, rocking, or spinning
  • Develop specific routines and rituals
  • Have difficulties with coordination or has odd movement patterns
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, or lights
  • Fixates on certain objects with so much intensity and focus
  • Doesn’t play “make-believe”
  • Fascinated by little details on certain objects even though they don’t know its purpose
  • Execute acts that might be harmful to themselves such as biting or head-banging
  • Has specific food preferences

Final Thoughts

Babies develop skills at their own pace and don’t follow specific timelines. However, children with autism usually show some signs and symptoms even before they reach the age of 2 years. If you’re concerned about your child’s development and you suspect that your child has ASD, it is best to consult a doctor.

Dr. Glenn Matney is a board-certified pediatrician who specializes in baby development, toddler development, and child development. Dr. Matney has great experience and expertise in diagnosing and treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD treatment), and also children with autism and autistic spectrum disorder, and other developmental disorders and learning disabilities. Schedule a consultation or give Dr. Matney a call at (760) 245-9363 to learn more about ASD.