Autism is a combination of disorders that may have the same symptoms. Called Autism Spectrum Disorder, it usually appears before a person turns one year old and may cause delays in basic developmental areas such as walking, playing and interacting with other people. The symptoms may vary from person to person. For example, some children only have mild impairments and others have more challenges. There are three main areas of difficulty that all children with autism have:
• Verbal and non-verbal communication
• Flexible thinking and behaving
• Relating to others and the world in general
While doctors, parents and researchers may differ in the causes of autism and the best treatments, most people agree that catching the symptoms early with intensive intervention will give the child a better chance for a normal life.
Some of the early warning signs of autism that parents may see are:
• Developmental delays that may include delays in social interactions and emotional and cognitive milestones. Developmental delays may not necessarily point to autism, but they could indicate a higher risk.
• Walking and talking late according to what is considered the normal range is no reason to panic because each person develops at a different rate. However, if you see a consistent lateness in developmental milestones, it may be a good idea to ask a specialist. If there is any indication of autism, it’s better to know as soon as possible.
• It is not good advice to wait and see how things go. If there is any chance the problem could be autism, the longer you wait for therapy, the more difficult it is to treat. Children rarely grow out of developmental problems and the earlier they get extra help, the better.
• Regression is a serious warning signal. If your child has started to develop normally, then starts to show infantile behavior or regress from first words to no words, you should seek help. Another sign of regression is if your child plays social games such as patty-cake, peek-a-boo or waving goodbye and stops, you should seek help.
As a child gets older, the signals for autism become more diverse and are more focused on social skills, non-verbal communication and language and speech difficulties.