Parents don’t want to think that anything will make their child’s life more difficult. They don’t want to think that their children will ever have any extra obstacles in their life.
However, it’s estimated that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism. This means it’s something that parents can’t ignore. As such, there are certain things that every parent should know about autism.
What Is Autism?
While many nod when they hear the word autism, not everyone has a complete understanding of what that word conveys. The most basic definition that the American Psychological Association gives is that these children have trouble communicating with others as well as have repetitive or restrictive patterns of interests, activities, and behaviors.
You might be wondering why this definition is rather simplistic. This is because autism exists on a spectrum, the full diagnosis being that of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. In other words, two children could have ASD and present in very different ways.
Most children with autism struggle with sensory experiences. Once again, though, the severity of this differs. While one child might have underactive senses, another might have overactive sense.
In general, autistic children struggle with sensory sensations differently than someone that doesn’t place on the spectrum might. Bright lights, loud sounds, or even uncomfortable clothes or different smells can elicit a negative reaction from children on the spectrum.
Stims are repetitive behaviors that autistic children find comfort in. This is when you might see children on the spectrum flapping their arms, spinning, or rocking. Some of these children might even find comfort in watching other things that spin or flaps.
When these behaviors are in play, autistic children might seem distant or in their own world.
Restriction of Interests
Children that place on the spectrum might struggle in school. They may not know their multiplication tables or vocabulary homework as well as other children their age. At the same time, they might be able to tell you everything you might need to know about their biggest interest. To some, this might look borderline obsessive but it is rather normal for a child with ASD.
By some measures, it is estimated that 25% of children with ASD have average or even high intelligence while 75% have a level of intellectual disability. This can range from a mild disability to a profound one.
However, each of these children – no matter how they fall on the spectrum – each has a unique mind and they aren’t immune to the world around them. To put this another way, it is important to remember that while autistic children need to do something differently or might need help sometimes, they are just as capable as the next person.
What Causes Autism?
Lately, there has been a lot of debate over what causes autism. One of the main fears that many hold is that the vaccinations that children get when they are young can cause autism. It cannot be stated enough that these fears are unfounded and science has spoken otherwise.
As of now, there isn’t a source to point at as to what causes autism. There have been noticeable links to genetic factors. It is far from rare to see a family with more than one individual who places on the spectrum.
Signs of Autism
It should be noted, once again, that autism doesn’t manifest the same way in every child. However, there are some general signs that can be looked out for.
- No cooing or babbling at a year old
- No pointing, grasping, or waving at a year old
- No single word talking at 16 months (i.e. “Mama”, “Daddy”, etc.)
- No two-word phrases without help at 2 years
- If your child shows any regression in social or language skills at any age
There are a few extra signs that might signal your child places on the spectrum. Some of these include the following;
- Difficulty making or lack of eye contact
- Intense fixation on an interest or concept
- Little to no interest in playing with others in their age range
- Little to no interest in “playing pretend”
- Lack of response when someone points out something
What Should You Do If You See These Signs?
If you notice a few or more of these signs popping up and start getting concerned, the first step you should take is to talk to your child’s pediatrician. It’s absolutely crucial to note that you shouldn’t self-diagnose your child.
It’s also important to note that while these signs might start showing up early, there are instances of babies just being “late bloomers.” Because of this, many doctors don’t make a diagnosis before the age of about 18 months to 2 years.
There is a learning curve of how to help a child with autism. What accommodations do they need at school? In the home? With a little research, you can find the basic ideas and tailor those ideas to fit your child’s situation.
A key idea to remember, though, is that just like anyone else, children with autism change as they grow. This means that while you might have found the perfect balance while your child is in kindergarten, this method might not work when they reach middle school.
You Aren’t Alone
The final thing to know is that if your child is diagnosed with ASD is that your child and you are not alone. There are a variety of products and services that are there to help autistic children and their families handle the diagnosis as well as possible.
For support, there are plenty of groups both online and in communities that can help parents learn and adapt to life with autism in it. Additionally, there are plenty of online resources such as Autism Speaks that can help you educate yourself on everything you need to know about autism.
There are useful autism toys, sensory therapy tools, educational autism products. For instance, there are a variety of products that can help make sure parents can keep track of their children via GPS technology in case of emergencies.
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