Autism Spectrum

Autism Spectrum, or ASD, describes a grouping of brain disorders that refer to a wide range of symptoms, levels of impairment or disability as well as the skills a child with ASD may have. Some children are severely impaired, others may only have mild impairment.

The symptoms of Autism Spectrum generally fall into three areas: Social Impairment, Communication Difficulties and Repetitive and Stereotyped Behaviors. The symptoms are somewhat early development, sometimes with babies rarely making eye contact, inability to engage in simple back and forth play with their parents, or being overly focused on objects. And in other cases, a child may develop normally until the second or third year of life, then experience “regression”, which is to start to lose interest in things or people, and become withdrawn, silent or indifferent.

Symptoms that may exhibit Social Impairment:

  • Makes very little eye contact with others
  • Doesn’t point things out, or show them to others to share the experience or learning
  • Responds unusually to anger or affection or distress, or emotional cues from others
  • Failure to respond to others, or to notice those around them

Symptoms that may display Communication Difficulties

According to the American Academy of Pediatric’s developmental milestones, by a child’s first birthday, it is typical for them to be able to speak one or two words, turn when someone calls their name, and point when they want a particular item. When offered something they do not want, their facial expressions, gestures, or words make it clear that the answer is no. However, children with autism might instead display some of the following:

  • Make cooing or babbling communications in the first year, then abruptly stop
  • Be slow to respond to their name or other verbal attempts to get their attention, or fail to altogether
  • Fail to, or be slow at developing gestures such as showing things or pointing to things
  • Be slow to develop language
  • May use pictures to communicate, or their own sign language
  • Speak in single words or repeat words or phrases over and over, not combining meaningful sentences
  • Use words that are out of place or odd -Repeat words or phrases they hear as if to echo them, (a condition called “echolalia”)

Repetitive and Stereotyped Behaviors

Children with ASD often use repetitive motions or unusual behaviors, some that are milder and more discreet, and others that can be extreme and noticeable. These repetitive actions, also referred to as “stimming”, can vary from marching in place, touching, rocking, swaying, spinning and more. They can also be quite overly focused on a certain interest, and be fascinated with, for instance, the way a toy car’s wheels move, or may spend hours lining up toys in a certain order rather than playing with them and become angry if that order is disrupted. Children with ADS have great interest in numbers, symbols, or science, and can take an obsessive interest in or become intensely preoccupied with certain items. Children with ASD do best in a structured routine and can be extremely upset if the routine is changed even slightly.

Children are all different and traits vary, as do severity and development. If you feel your child may have ASD related symptoms, speak to your doctor or other health professional for screening and other evaluations.