The fact that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) contains the word “Spectrum” is the first clue about the challenges in recognizing and diagnosing the condition. The second clue is the definition of ASD, which, according to the American Autism Association, is a “Developmental disorder that causes issues with communication, social, verbal, and motor skills.”
Our point here is that ASD can present itself in myriad ways in children, and no two present with the exact same signs or symptoms.
That said, the team here at Celebrations Speech Group has extensive experience helping kids with autism spectrum disorder, and we recognize that some characteristics are more common than others.
In the following, we review some of these common ASD signs.
ASD by the numbers
Before we get into the signs, it might be helpful to review some key statistics about ASD, which affects about 1 in 36 children in the United States.
First, it’s important to note that ASD occurs in four times as many boys as girls. Despite this gender disparity, ASD affects all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups equally.
In most cases, ASD is typically first diagnosed in children between the ages of 2 and 3, which is when the symptoms become more pronounced.
Common signs of ASD
Now that we have some broad parameters about ASD, let’s look at some of the more common signs we see in young kids. These signs typically occur in areas of communication, interaction, and speech (please note that kids with ASD learn to crawl, walk, and sit up like any other child).
Language delays or regression
Infants with ASD typically don’t babble or make sounds like other infants. This can be the case from the start, or a child can start to vocalize and then regress, becoming more silent and less responsive.
Few facial expressions
Another common marker of ASD is few facial expressions. For example, you can smile at your child, but they won’t smile back. Outside of not interacting with your facial expressions, they may not make any on their own in response to the world around them.
Little to no eye contact
Kids with ASD often make very little or no eye contact. This is often an early sign you may notice as soon as six months.
Issues with joint attention
Kids with ASD often have delayed or nonexistent joint attention. This is a form of interaction in which a child can look at an event or object and then look at a person with whom to connect about the object or event. Kids with ASD often isolate the object or event, and they don’t share a connection with another person over it. Kids with ASD often have delayed or nonexistent joint attention.
Kids with ASD can struggle with specific sights, sounds, lights, sensations, tastes, textures, and so on. For example, a trip to the beach can quickly become problematic if your child responds to the sensation of having sand on their body.
We want to emphasize that the symptoms of ASD that we reviewed above are far from comprehensive. Because ASD is so challenging to identify, we urge you to seek our help at the first signs of a problem so that we can better guide you moving forward.
For expert diagnosis and treatment of ASD, please contact one of our offices in Brentwood, Stockton, or Elk Grove, California, to schedule an appointment.