Understanding Your Child: Early Signs of Autism


Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it encompasses a wide range of symptoms characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors.

“According to the WHO, about 1 in 100 children has autism [1].”

Every year on April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day is observed to promote understanding and raise awareness about individuals with autism. Additionally, Autism Awareness Day aims to reduce stigma, promote acceptance, and foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals across the autism spectrum.

7 Early Signs Of Autism
The symptoms of autism often appear early in development by 12 months to 18 months of age or earlier [2]. Autism manifests differently in each individual, with abilities and needs that can vary and change over time. While some individuals with autism may possess the skills to live independently, others may experience more severe disabilities and necessitate ongoing care and support throughout their lives.

Providing early interventions to a child not only ensures they begin with a strong foundation but also maximizes their opportunities for reaching their full potential. The earlier a child receives assistance, the higher the likelihood of experiencing significant learning and progress. [3].

1. Communication Challenges
-Difficulty in interaction and communication is one of the hallmark features of autism [4].
-Infants and toddlers with ASD may exhibit delayed or absent responses to their names. Some children with autism may not speak at all, while others may develop language but struggle with meaningful conversation, repeating phrases out of context (echolalia).
-They may also struggle with understanding and using gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice to communicate their needs and emotions.

2. Repetitive Behaviors
-Children with autism often engage in repetitive behaviors and display restricted interests or activities, that may include repetitive body movements (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking, and lining up toys in a specific order).
-They may become fixated on certain objects or activities, displaying a strong hatred for change or deviation from established routines.

3. Delayed Speech & Language Development
-Speech and language delays are common in children with autism [5]. Some may exhibit delayed onset of speech or limited verbal communication, while others may demonstrate unusual speech patterns.
-Difficulties in understanding and expressing language, as well as challenges in initiating and sustaining conversations, are also characteristic of autism.

4. Sensory Sensitivities
-Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may encounter both hypersensitivity, where they are overly responsive to certain stimuli, and hyposensitivity, where they are under-responsive, across a broad spectrum of sensory experiences.
-Over 96% of children with ASD report hyper and hypo-sensitivities in multiple domains [6].
-Children with autism may exhibit varying sensitivities, with some being particularly sensitive to bright lights or loud noises, while others may find certain clothing or food textures challenging to tolerate. These sensitivities can vary widely among individuals and may impact their daily experiences.

5. Difficulty with Transitions
-Struggling to adapt to change and acclimate to unfamiliar environments is commonly recognized as a characteristic feature of autism.
-Moving from one activity to another or transitioning from one location to another can present difficulties for individuals with autism. Such transitions may evoke feelings of anxiety or agitation, particularly when plans change unexpectedly.

6. Limited Social Interaction
-Difficulty with social interaction is a hallmark of autism. Children with autism often struggle with social play and interaction with peers.
-They may have difficulty understanding social cues, taking turns, sharing toys, and engaging in imaginative or pretend play. Their social interactions may appear awkward or one-sided, with limited social communication and play activities.

7. Unusual Play Patterns
-Atypical play patterns are often observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Rather than engaging in typical play behaviors, such as imaginative or interactive play, individuals with autism may exhibit unusual or repetitive play patterns.
-These atypical play patterns can be an early indicator of autism and may persist into adolescence and adulthood if not addressed early.

If someone encounters any of the above symptoms in your kids. A prompt medical consultation is advised for an early diagnosis.
Consult A Doctor

By recognizing the early signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, we can take proactive steps to support children and families affected by ASD. Early intervention services, such as developmental screenings, diagnostic evaluations, and specialized therapies, can help individuals with autism reach their full potential and progress in all aspects of life.

On World Autism Awareness Day, let’s honor parents of autistic children whose love knows no bounds. They tirelessly advocate for acceptance and understanding, breaking barriers and fostering inclusivity. Despite the hurdles, their bond with their autistic child shines brightly, illuminating paths of hope and resilience.

Therefore, let us all, “Embrace Differences and Spread Understanding” on this Autism Awareness Day.

(The article is written by Simran Suri, Assistant Team Lead, and  reviewed by  Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Autism. Key facts. World Health Organization.[Updated 2023].
2. When do children usually show symptoms of autism? US Department of Health and Human Services. [Updated 2017]
3. Early Intervention for Autism. National Institutes Of Health.[Updated 2021].
4. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Communication Problems in Children. National Institute Of Health. [Updated 2020].
5. Mody M, Belliveau JW. Speech and Language Impairments in Autism: Insights from Behavior and Neuroimaging. N Am J Med Sci (Boston). [Updated 2103].
6. Marco EJ, Hinkley LB, Hill SS, Nagarajan SS. Sensory processing in autism: a review of neurophysiologic findings. Pediatr Res.[Updated 2011].

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