Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects the way people communicate, behave, or interact with others. There’s no particular cause for it, and symptoms can be very mild or severe.
Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as young as a few months old. Others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives, and then they start showing regression in the achieved milestones.
The autism spectrum is very wide. Some people might have very noticeable issues, others might not. The common thread is differences and issues in social skills, communication, and behaviour compared with people who aren’t on the spectrum.
A child with Autism will have a hard time interacting with others. Problems with social skills are the most common signs. If your child is on the spectrum, they might show some social symptoms by the time they're 8 to 10 months old. These may include any of the following:
Name response- Doesn't respond to their name by even one year of age; e.g., doesn’t turn head, look up, talk or babble or smile or stop what they are doing.
Pointing- Doesn’t look at something across the room, when you point. Similarly, the child doesn’t point at objects where they need your attention.
Facial expression- Doesn’t respond to others facial expression; for instance, doesn’t smile back, when you smile at them.
Interaction- Have difficulty in mingling or making friends with other children of the same age; for e.g. doesn’t watch other children, smile at them, or go to them. Playing, sharing, or talking with other people don’t interest them. Prefers to be alone and avoids all kinds of interactions; doesn’t even bring objects of interest to show to the parent.
Eye contact- Avoid or make little eye contact while conversing or interacting with others; for instance, doesn’t look at you when you talk or play or dress them.
Feelings- When they’re upset, they don’t like to be comforted and are not interested in showing empathy or concern for others
Understanding- Difficulty in understanding others emotions. Not able to relate to sarcasm or a joke or humour.
Expression- Not able to convey themselves to others.
Gestures- Not using common gestures (pointing or waving) and not responding to them when gestured.
About 40% of kids with autism spectrum disorders don’t talk at all, and between 25% and 30% develop some language skills during infancy, but then lose them later between the ages of 15 and 24 months. However, some children with ASD start talking later in life. Most have some problems with communication, including those discussed below.
Delayed speech and language skills- are one of the alarming signs of autism, and they do not speak in words, phrases or sentences as they are supposed to be speaking the same as that of their peer group. For instance, even at the age of 4 years, the child still speaks only in one word and also have limited vocabulary.
Voice - Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice.
Irrational Echolalia- (repeating the same words/phrases, over and over, without proper understanding). For example, the child may keep repeating the word “apple” even when it is not present in that particular context.
Problems with pronouns- (saying “you” instead of “I”). They have difficulty understanding the concept of yours, mine, theirs, etc.
Presentation- Inability to start or stay on a topic when talking or answering questions. They face issues in topic maintenance, turn-taking or requesting or greeting.
Memory- May show a good rote memory, esp. for numbers, letters, songs or something specific.
Usually a child with Autism, present with repetitive, obsessive and unusual behaviour. These may include any of the following:
Stereotypic behaviour- Shows behaviours such as rocking, spinning, swaying, twirling fingers, walking on toes for a long time, or flapping hands etc.
Rituals - Loves routines, order, and has difficulty with change or transition from one activity to another. Any changes in their environment disturb them and they have difficulty adjusting to the situation.
Obsessed - with a few or unusual activities, and doing them repeatedly during the day. Plays with parts of toys instead of the whole toy (e.g., only spinning the wheels of a toy truck).
Emotion -May not cry if in pain or doesn’t seem to have any fear. This is due to their sensory integration issues.
Sensitive- Being very sensitive or not sensitive at all to smells, sounds, lights, textures, and touch in daily life; e.g. sound of a vacuum cleaner or grinder.
Vision- Presents unusual use of vision or gaze; looks at objects from unusual angles.