Signs your child might have autism

It is difficult for parents to see whether their child has a form of autism, this is your guideline.

Signs your child might have autism
Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

It is normal for parents to be concerned about the development of their (young) children. Many conditions or illnesses are easy to recognize for them, but there are also abnormalities that are less easily manifested physically. Autism is one of these abnormalities.

Still, there are signs that a child can show through behavior that may indicate autism. This can be noticed from a young age. These signs are indicative, but an official diagnosis should always be given by a specialist.

Although children can show multiple signs of autism discussed below in their behavior, it does not mean that your child also has autism. If you have this suspicion, you must always consult your doctor for a referral to the appropriate specialist.

Drawing in children under one year

When children are still very small, so under one year old, it can be difficult to recognize autism. However, there is a checklist that you can keep with this youngest group of children:

  • Does not babble at 12 months
  • Has no interest in other people at 12 months
  • Does not smile at others at 12 months
  • Does not respond when addressed at 12 months
  • Does not make gestures (pointing, waving) at 12 months
  • Does not yet make functional use of words at 18 months
  • Does not spontaneously use two-word phrases at 24 months

Drawing in toddlers and preschoolers

It is a little easier for toddlers and preschoolers to recognize a possible form of autism, because as they grow older, children communicate more and more and make contact with their environment. The following signs may indicate some form of autism:

  1. Try to make eye contact with your child. Do this at a time when your child is comfortable, such as while playing or cuddling. If your child avoids this eye contact, this could be a sign of some form of autism.
  2. Observe your child while playing in a public playground with other children. Does he or she almost always avoid other children? Would you rather play alone? This could indicate autism.
  3. Assess your child's vocabulary. Is this far behind the vocabulary of other children of the same age? Slowly picking up words can be a sign that your child has some form of autism.
  4. Observe how your child plays and interacts with toys. If he or she uses toys for purposes they are not intended for, this can be a sign. Think for example of a toy hammer, which your child uses as a pen.
  5. Think about what your child is doing and how he or she responds when it needs help. Children with autism are less likely to ask for help in any situation. Even if they need it.
  6. Watch for routine behavior. If your child depends on a systematic way of doing things, and finds it difficult to deviate from these routines, this could indicate autism. This can be difficult to discover, because many children enjoy the predictability of certain rituals. Therefore try to be extra sharp on a hang of routines that are not exactly usual.
  7. Try to estimate how your child reacts to bright light and pain. Autistic children have been shown to be highly sensitive to these issues. For example, does your child not want to leave the house without a cap or sunglasses on a sunny day? Or is it startled by bright light on television? Your child barely tolerates any kind of pain, or he or she can hardly overcome it. This could be a sign that your child has some form of autism.

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Jiska Stuij
See all posts by Jiska Stuij