Recognising the early signs of autism in children
Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will show some developmental differences compared to neurotypical children when they are infants. This will often be the most apparent when it comes to their social and language skills. Since children with autism will often sit, crawl and walk when expected, however, the less obvious differences in pretend play, social language, and using hand and body gestures can easily go unnoticed. Speech and language delays can be quite common in children with autism, and families might notice some differences in the way that the child interacts with their peers and others. So, what are some of the early signs of autism in children?
Children with autism will often socialise with others differently compared to a neurotypical child. For example, they may not make eye contact or will make very little eye contact when talking to them. They might not have a response to your smile or other facial expressions and might not look at objects or anything else that you are pointing at or looking to in the way that you might expect a neurotypical child to. They may have difficulty keeping and making friends, and are less likely to bring objects of personal interest to show you or others. Children with autism may struggle to determine what people might be thinking or feeling based on their facial expressions, and they might have difficulty showing empathy or show empathy differently to a neurotypical child.
Children who are on the autism spectrum will usually communicate with you and others differently to neurotypical children. There might be slight or profound differences depending on the individual child. As an infant, you may notice that your child has delayed speech development or may not be saying any single words by 15 months or two-word phrases by 24 months. They may repeat exactly what others are saying without understanding the meaning, and some children do not respond to names being called. They may sometimes mix up pronouns, such as calling themselves ‘you’ and others ‘I’. Some children with autism may show no interest in communicating, and they may be less likely to start or continue a conversation. If you have noticed any of these signs in your child, it might be worth taking a Child Autism Test to find out more. Click here to do the test from Psymplicity; Psymplicity offers mental health support for both adults and children, covering a range of disorders and conditions including autism.
Finally, a child with autism may sometimes behave differently to a neurotypical child. You may notice your child engaging in ‘stimming’ such as flapping their hands, twirling their fingers, walking on their toes for longer than you would expect, rocking or spinning. Your child might play with certain parts of the toy rather than the entire toy, and they might show obsessive interest in certain activities that they do repeatedly throughout the day. A child with autism is more likely to be upset if there are any disruptions to their routine and they may be sensitive to certain sounds, smells, textures or lights.
The symptoms and signs of autism in children are very broad, and every child is different. It is also generally more difficult to recognise autism in girls. But if some or all of the signs above remind you of your child, it can be worth getting an autism assessment.