Autism is a complex disorder characterized by marked difficulties in interpersonal communication along with a need to engage in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors. Identifying autism early in life can make an incredible difference in your child’s future. By educating yourself on the signs and seeking help as soon as possible, you will enable your child to thrive.
Early Indicators of Autism
Some parents may suspect that their child is on the autism spectrum. They may exhibit key patterns of behavior like a preference for solitude, difficulty empathizing with others, and highly restricted interests. They may also display unusual, intense reactions to sensory input, like certain textures, lights, and tastes. Depending on the norms in your family, you may have written off these behaviors as quirks, only to realize something more serious is going on once your child enters school.
Others might have suspected that their child has autism from a very young age. In fact, many of the diagnostic features of autism emerge by the age of two. Consider having your child assessed if they demonstrate the following early indicators.
- Slower language and social development (usually observed at 14 months of age)
- Fewer joint attention and communication behaviors than peers (at one year of age)
- Atypical eye contact, decreased activity level, passivity, and delayed language (at one year of age)
- Little or no babbling, big smiles, response to name, or other indicators of social growth (by two years)
- Differences in sensory-motor and social behavior, or in the use of communicative gestures (at nine to twelve months)
- A decline in eye fixation from two to six months
What to Expect from Your Screening
The screening procedures for autism spectrum disorder test for developmental delays in children. Typically, these screenings will include competency-based measures (such as interviews or child observations) as well as reports from parents and teachers about the child’s typical behavior. Medical exams may also be involved. For example, your child’s hearing may be tested by an audiologist to rule out any diagnoses that may be explained by partial deafness or hearing loss.
In addition to typical tools used to identify developmental disorders, autism has its own identifying characteristics. Children on the spectrum may have difficulties with eye contact, indicating objects of interest, pretend play, language development, and nonverbal communication.
In summary, comprehensive screening for autism consists of:
- Self-Report Measures (Parent, Teacher)
- Standardized Assessments (Empirical Evaluation Tools)
- Naturalistic Observation (Watching How Child Interacts)
- Analog Tasks (Communication Contexts)
- Dynamic Assessment (Interactive)
- Ethnographic Interviewing (Establishing Cultural & Family Norms)
My Child Has Autism – Now What?
If your child has been diagnosed with autism through the above screening process, you may feel overwhelmed. However, plenty of great resources are available to help you accommodate the needs of your child.
- Educate yourself. Spend some time researching autism, including up-to-date studies from reputable sources and parenting recommendations. Read about other children on the spectrum and consult local nonprofits about services in your area.
- You’re not alone. There are likely several nearby organizations in your area for children on the spectrum (and their parents). Involve yourself and your child in these groups to build a support network and learn what’s worked for others.
- Practice self-care. When your child needs so much, it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself. Be sure that you’re well-rested and ready to take on the day, whether that means treating yourself to a nice meal or going to bed earlier.
- Seek professional help. There are so many professionals available to help you navigate the earliest days of your child’s diagnosis. We advise you to take advantage of Pine Grove’s outpatient autism services, which provide support and care to those on the spectrum.
Autism Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
If your child meets any of the above criteria, reach out to Pine Grove today. Our assessments are conducted by a team of licensed clinical psychologists, who can recommend clear paths to treatment and behavioral therapy services. Call (888) 574-4673 today to learn more.