The warning Signs to look out for :-

April 2nd, has been declared by the United Nations as the World Autism Awareness Day. According to latest statistics, the prevalence rate of autism in India is every 1 in 100 people and this ratio has been on a steady incline. Thus it is vital for us to be aware of what autism means and looks like so that we can be prepared for the warning signs and seek early intervention.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum disorder refers to a range of developmental disorders that often appear during early childhood. A set of behaviour's that fall on a spectrum are associated with this condition which typically lead to social and functional difficulties. Autism Spectrum Disorder is often a lifelong condition, but there has been immense research in the field which has helped develop a variety of intervention techniques that aim at managing the symptoms and helping children with autism to grow into functional adults. The earlier a child is diagnosed with ASD, the earlier he/she will be exposed to intervention and rehabilitation programs which are essential and so identifying the early signs of ASD is crucial. Early diagnosis and intervention often leads to very positive outcomes.

What to look for?

The following are some of the signs that you should look out for in your infant and toddler to determine if he shows symptoms of ASD:

  • If your child doesn’t respond to his name or any other verbal acknowledgement aimed at gaining his/her attention. If your child fails to make consistent eye contact.
  • If there is a lack of shared facial expressions and responses like: not smiling at you.
  • If your child shows a lack of listening to and looking at people around him/her.
  • If your child generally has difficulties in engaging in interactions or conversations of any kind with you and others. 
  • If your child seems to get upset by any minute change in routine.
  • If your child seems uninterested in play activities-especially with other kids.
  • If your child consistently repeats certain phrases even after having moved past the babbling phase
  •  If your child shows a lack or delay in language acquisition
  • If your child shows any unusual behavior's that he/she tends to repeat consistently.If your child seems too attached to a particular object and has odd and repetitive behavior associated with it.
  • If your child shows an unnatural, almost single-minded interest in specific topics like alphabets or numbers.

The Next Step

These are merely the warning signs and it is imperative to keep in mind that the symptoms of ASD show up along a spectrum. Thus some children with Autism will show an inability to speak while other children can be highly verbal but repetitive and single-minded in their speech. This is true for most behaviors associated with Autism.  If you find that your child displays some of these signs then the best thing to do is to refer to a clinical psychologist who can carry out further diagnostic tests and observations to determine where your child falls on the spectrum and what interventions are best suited. Though it is easy to look at Autism and the symptoms associated with it as a disability, there are a few strengths associated with it as well. Children with autism tend to have special abilities in at least one aspect/area and some even have above average intelligence. Identifying these strengths and helping your child build on them will ensure that he/she can overcome the limitations. Autism does not mean that your child cannot have a fruitful and enriching life, it just means that he/she will need a different kind of support and care in order to do so.