Does my Child have Autism?
Parents love their children and want them to live happy and healthy lives. As first-time parents, many people wonder if the odd things their children do are normal, or if there may be something wrong. For example, many children go through phases where they place objects that aren’t food in their mouth- at what point does this becoming worrisome?
With the rising knowledge of autism and other developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, parents may worry that their child has a disorder. This article aims to help parents identify whether their child may or may not have autism, and to give some general information about receiving a diagnosis, and what to expect in the future after a diagnosis.
Overview of Autism
As of 2016, one out of every 68 children had an autism diagnosis (Center of Disease Control and Prevention), which means it is likely that somebody you know has a family member with autism.
General symptoms of autism fall under two domains: social communication/interaction, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior
Social communication and interaction
If you sometimes feel that it is difficult to connect with your child socially or emotionally, you may be seeing symptoms of autism.
Examples of social symptoms of autism
- Not responding to name
- Not pointing to objects to show interest
- Not engaging in pretend play
- Avoiding eye contact
- Delayed speech
Examples of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior
- Upset by changes in routine
- Has limited and obsessive interests
- Makes repetitive movements like flapping hands, rocking, or spinning in circles
Some things put children at a higher risk for an autism diagnosis. These risk factors do not mean that a child has a diagnosis, just that they are more likely than other children to have autism.
Risk factors for autism include:
- Having older parents
- Having a family member diagnosed with autism
- Experiencing unusual medical events, such as seizures, gastrointestinal concerns, or sleep problems
Obtaining a diagnosis
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends screening all children for symptoms of autism at 18 and 24 months of age
Your doctor or other clinicians may conduct direct or indirect assessments to evaluate potential symptoms of autism.
First, your clinician will likely conduct an indirect assessment, which primary consists of asking about parents’ concerns about their child’s development. One tool for indirectly assessing symptoms of autism is the M-CHAT. The M-CHAT is a questionnaire that asks questions such as, “If you point at something across the room, does your child look at it?” If the indirect assessment suggests that your child may have autism, they should provide a referral for a clinician trained in autism assessment to conduct further indirect and direct assessments.
During direct assessments, a clinician will interact with your child, observe their behavior, and test certain skills. They may test cognitive skills, language usage, adaptive skills (e.g., eating with a spoon), and how your child reacts to sensory stimulation.
A diagnosis of autism is often scary for parents and other family members, however there are many ways to help children with autism live happy and fruitful lives.
Almost one in ten children diagnosed with autism no longer meet diagnostic criteria by young adulthood. This means that they are no longer showing symptoms of autism. Some factors that promote success in these children are having higher cognitive skills when diagnosed, receiving early behavioral intervention services, and demonstrating decreases in repetitive behaviors.