One of the best things we can do for our children with autism is to notice it early.
Children whose parents and care providers notice the signs of autism within the first few years of life are more likely to receive critical early intervention services. High quality early intervention helps create strong foundations for the continued development of language, cognitive, behavioural, and social skills. Early intervention is proven to improve outcomes for children with autism, their families, and for everyone in their communities.
Unfortunately for so many kids, symptoms of autism are frequently overlooked in the first few years of life.
Most paediatricians are not autism specialists, and many have not been trained to recognise the signs of autism in very young children. Symptoms of autism in younger patients are often dismissed as personality quirks, or as behaviours that will eventually be outgrown.
Children whose autism goes unnoticed until they are older miss out on years of potential therapy during a time in their lives when intervention could massively influence their developmental trajectories.
Thankfully, our kids have advocates working tirelessly on their behalf. We’re fortunate that these advocates also happen to be the world’s foremost experts on our children. These advocates? They’re us!
You are the world’s most qualified expert on all things related to your child. If you observe developmental delays or concerning behaviours, you have the right to request that your child be screened for autism. If your family does receive an official diagnosis, finding out early is the first step toward providing the best support you can for your child.
The text below describes symptoms of autism commonly observed during early childhood. If you suspect your child has autism, schedule an assessment with your primary care provider as soon as possible.
Top Signs of Autism
Your child doesn’t look when you point to indicate an object of interest.
Children with autism are less likely to recognise the meaning of the pointing gesture, and may not understand that you are indicating that they should look in the direction where you are pointing.
Your child doesn’t point to make requests for help or to indicate desired items.
Children with autism are more likely to lead you by hand or otherwise guide your body to the item they want, or resort to inappropriate behaviour to have their needs met. The lack of pointing is related to a failure to understand how to communicate needs and desires through body language.
Your child has no reaction when you say his or her name out loud.
Children with autism may not understand what kind of response is expected when their name is spoken, or autism may be affecting their ability to understand and react to spoken language.
Your child avoids making eye contact.
Sustained eye contact can be a source of physical and psychological discomfort for people with autism spectrum disorders.
Your child does not copy or respond to facial expressions or gestures.
Children with autism are less likely to engage in back-and-forth gestures like pointing where you point, sharing objects and taking turns, smiling when you smile, reaching up to be held when you lean down to pick them up, or waving back to you when you wave hello or goodbye.
Your child ignores, fails to comply with, or seems to misunderstand simple directions.
Children with autism who are at an age where you would expect them to be able to comply with directions like, “Get your shoes!” or, “Point to the car!” may seem to misunderstand or ignore these instructions.
Your child organises toys instead of playing with them.
Instead of making up narratives or playing imaginatively with toys, children with autism may spend hours obsessively sorting them, organizing them, lining them up, or rearranging them.
Your child does not enjoy playing or interacting with peers.
Instead of engaging in play or interacting with children in their age group, children with autism may prefer to spend time alone. They may try to escape from social situations to seek solitude, or they may ignore their peers entirely, seeming to be in their own world.
Your child engages in repetitive “stimming” behaviours.
Children with autism may become obsessed with or seem unable to stop certain behaviours like jumping up and down, spinning in circles, rocking back and forth, or flapping and clapping their hands.
Your child does not adapt to changes in environment or routine.
For children with autism, shifts in routine and changes to familiar environments can be a major source of anxiety and emotional stress.
Don’t wait for a diagnosis to start therapy.
Discrete Video Modeling (DVM) is a form of therapy I invented for my children to help them improve language and cognitive skills. If you suspect autism but your child hasn’t been given a formal diagnosis, or if you are waiting for the results of an assessment, you can still begin DVM therapy through Gemiini’s online program.
Therapy through Gemiini is effective, affordable, and unlimited. You can use Gemiini to design a personalised intervention program for your child today. You don’t have to miss out on valuable therapy hours while you wait for assessment results. With Gemiini, you can start therapy now.
Laura Kasbar is a special education expert helping autistic children around the world find their voices.