Signs Your Child Might Be Autistic – How to Treat Them

signs of autism
signs of autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder which affects a child’s nervous system and growth. The first signs of autism among children can be noticed during the first 3 years of their lives. It severely impacts their social interaction, communication skills, and behaviour. It can also cause kids to have repetitive behaviours and limited interests. Even though children with autism are born with it, it only becomes noticeable when they start to have trouble interacting with other children their age.

What Causes Autism?

  • Genetic Factors: The exact cause of autism is still unknown to scientists but it is believed that genetic factors play an important role in the onset of autism. Mutation in genes increases the risk of autism, however, not all kids with autism have a genetic mutation.
  • Environmental Factors: Researchers have identified several chemicals that they believe may have a possible connection to the increased risk of developing ASD, including air pollution, pesticides, bisphenol A, phthalates, mercury or lead.
  • Nutritional Factors: Nutritional deficiencies among children in folic acid, vitamin D, and fatty acids might also play a role in the increased risk of ASD.
  • Infection During Pregnancy: It was observed in a study in 2019 that if a woman is infected during pregnancy there are 79% more chances of the baby being diagnosed with autism.

Signs of Autism in Children

The signs and symptoms of autism in children can vary. Usually, younger children aged 2-3 years old show symptoms like not responding to their names, not talking as much as other children, getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound and avoiding eye contact. On the other hand, older children over 3 years old show signs like unusual speech, finding it difficult to make friends and liking strict daily routines. These symptoms are often associated with communication and interaction skills and repetitive behaviour. Here’s a breakdown of the symptoms:

Social Communication and Interaction Skills

  • Difficulty with maintaining eye contact, often avoiding it altogether.
  • Speech and language development delays or challenges, such as limited vocabulary or difficulty forming sentences.
  • Limited understanding of social cues and emotions, leading to challenges in interpreting others’ feelings.
  • Preference for solitary play over interactive activities with peers.
  • Starts speaking at a later age than other children or doesn’t speak at all.
  • When the child is able to speak, but doesn’t use speech in social settings
  • May be too sensitive or less sensitive to certain things around them, such as lights, sounds, touch, or taste. 

Repetitive Behaviours and Interests

  • Engaging in repetitive movements like hand-flapping or rocking.
  • Insistence on routines and difficulty coping with changes to their environment or schedule.
  • Intense focus on specific interests or objects, sometimes to the exclusion of other activities.
  • Sensory sensitivities, such as being bothered by loud noises or bright lights.
  • Repeats words or phrases (echolalia) or repeats parts of dialogue from TV or movies. 

Next Steps if You See Signs

If you notice the signs of autism in your kid then you need to take immediate action and seek a proper diagnosis for the disorder since early interventions yield the best results for autistic children. Accurate diagnosis may only be possible if your kid is over 2-3 years old. There are a number of pathways you can consider for the diagnosis.

You can approach a single clinician, called a diagnostician for the diagnosis who might be a paediatrician, child specialist, or specialist psychologist. Alternatively, you can also seek diagnosis from a multidisciplinary team which can include a number of medical or allied health professionals working together. There are several state government-funded services that specialise in the assessment and diagnosis of autism, but they might have long waiting periods due to high demand. In such cases, there are also private services available with Medicare funding services.

Prepare for Autism Assessment

Once you have decided on the pathway for assessment and diagnosis, it is also essential to prepare for the same. You can prepare for your child’s autism assessment by writing down your questions or concerns about your child, along with your observations. Include specific examples of what you’ve noticed, how old your child was when you noticed the things, and how long you’ve noticed these things.

  • Paediatrician
  • Child and adolescent psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Speech pathologist
  • Occupational therapist (OT)
  • Social worker

Seeking Support

The diagnosis of ASD can bring in a lot of emotions and difficulties for your child and your family. Therefore, it is essential to seek support from the right people to help your child manage their condition. The autism support workers expose the children to various therapies, including positive behaviour support, incidental teaching, applied behaviour analysis, etc., which can help your child better adjust to his environment and have a normal life.

Finding the Right Support Worker

  • Look for support workers with relevant qualifications and experience in working with children on the autism spectrum.
  • Consider the specific skills and expertise that align with your child’s needs, whether it’s social skills development, behavioural support, or sensory integration.
  • For those eligible, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can provide funding for support workers and therapies, offering financial assistance to families in need.

If your child is younger than 7 years, the best pathway to seek support is to contact an NDIS support worker since it will allow you to seek support even without getting a diagnosis. The support worker will:

  • Discuss your child’s needs.
  • Refer you to services in your area.
  • Give access to peer support groups.

Don’t let autism be a barrier for your child in achieving their full potential. Take necessary early intervention for your autistic child so that they have the best opportunity to thrive and become empowered to navigate the world. Autism support is available for Australian citizens at their fingertips. So take action now! 

About Sensory Edge 534 Articles
At SensoryEdge our focus is to educate, inform, and inspire each person caring for children to be and do their very best. It is not always easy and sometimes we don't take action (or we take the wrong action) because of a lack of understanding the real issues. We hope that the conversations that occur here will help in some small way better the lives of children, their families, and the professionals who work with them. We are always looking for valuable contributions to our site so if you are interested in becoming a contributor contact us.