Spot the early signs of autism in children – why attitude change and awareness are key to giving autistic children a normal life

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Spot the early signs of autism in children – why attitude change and awareness are key to giving autistic children a normal life

Posted on April 2, 2022

Written by Dr. Gowri Ravi Chinthalapalli, Consultant – Child Development, Aster CMI Hospital

Each child is unique and grows at their own pace, but there are some important steps to follow. During the first two years of a child’s development, defects in motor function, language, and sensory perception can be easily detected. Headbutting, biting and other unwanted or extreme reactions to circumstances, as well as repeated outbursts that the child is unable to regulate or self-soothe, are also signs of potential behavior problems, which often pass unnoticed.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disability caused by abnormalities in brain function. Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show developmental delays as babies, especially in their social and communication skills. Because they typically sit, crawl, and walk on time, less obvious differences in the development of body gestures, pretend play, and social language often go unnoticed.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Absence of facial expressions at 6 months of age
  • No response or incorrect response to their name at 12 months of age
  • Not a single word at 15 months
  • Lack of meaningful 2-word sentences at age 2
  • Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
  • Preoccupied with self or object
  • Having trouble understanding the feelings of others or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Giving unrelated answers to questions
  • Absence or regression of speech, babbling, or previously learned social skills, especially between 1 and 2 years of age
  • Being upset over minor changes
  • Clap your hands, rock your body, or spin in circles
  • Having unusual reactions to the sound, smell, taste, look, or feel of things
  • Other early symptoms include:
  • Autistic people have unique brain activity, structures and connections at a very young age

Most children with autism are not diagnosed until after age 3, although healthcare providers can often see developmental issues before that age. It is advisable to consult a doctor if the above symptoms are noticed at an incipient stage. As parents, we must approach and manage autistic children with special attention and care. Early detection and therapy can reduce deficits and maximize a child’s potential, as their brain growth is very rapid during the first years of life and we can use this period of neuroplasticity to minimize any deficits that may arise in the future.

It is therefore very important to choose these warning signs and act. But unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, they disappear until about 3 years or even later, either due to ignorance or lack of acceptance by parents or other elders in the family.

How to manage an autistic child?

Working with autistic children can be challenging and very rewarding. Children with ASD may have difficulty developing language skills and understanding what others are saying to them, but they can learn to pay attention and they can improve with practice. As they say, the management of children is not only the treatment of that child but also of the parents, because the child depends on them, so unless they are on board and understand the seriousness of the situation, we will not be able to make any difference to the child. The other big challenge we face in daily practice is the expectation of parents, they want their child to follow the same path as most other children, which leads to stress in the parents which is then transferred to the child. child when he/she is expected to perform beyond his/her abilities. This is actually detrimental as it leads to behavioral problems which further hinder the development of the child. Once parents and society accept that the child will chart his own path, have his own abilities and limits; and also be involved in therapy, giving the right support and guidance, the child can have a good functional life in the future. There is research evidence that indicates parental involvement in therapy has better outcomes for children with autism, which is why we incorporate parent training as part of our autism management, enabling parents to be able to connect with their child and progress.

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