Is It Autism?

A lot of parents wonder, long before they receive a diagnosis if their child has Autism Spectrum Disorder. What are some early signs, and when should you consult a specialist?

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. (Buescher et al., 2014) and the prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014)  Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. (CDC, 2008)

To be diagnosed with ASD, there must be 3 types of impairments in social communication and interaction.  These types of impairment are:

Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity meaning an individual may have difficulty responding or initiating social interactions, lack of sharing interests or emotions with others and difficulty with conversational turn taking.  

Deficits in nonverbal communication; things like little to no eye contact, poor body language, trouble interpreting body language.  

Deficits in developing and maintaining relationships; a lack of interest in peers, difficulty making friends.

In addition to the above, the child must also exhibit 2 of the following patterns of behavior:

  1. Engaging in restricted play and interests that are abnormal in their focus and intensity.  For example, a child may have a preoccupation with vacuum cleaners and obsessively talk about them at the expense of talking about anything else. He may love trains and line them up for hours without interest in any other toys.
  2. Over-reaction or under-reaction to sensory input.  Individuals with Autism may have difficulty processing and integrating sensory information.  They may be indifferent to pain or temperature, have fixations on smelling or touching objects, or have adverse reactions to certain sounds.
  3. Repetitive movements or speech.  – Hand flapping or other repetitive body movements or repeating the same phrase.
  4. Inflexible routines or ritualized patterns of behavior.  These patterns can be present in verbal or non-verbal behavior.  These may present problems with transitions or small changes to one’s routine.  

To receive a diagnosis of Autism the impairments must be present in early development and cause impairments in social and other areas of functioning. If you think your child may have ASD, consult your pediatrician.

My child has special needs, now what?