Autism Symptoms

You can observe some Autism symptoms in a person as young as two years old and sometimes even younger. Here are the main Autism symptoms that will allow you to identify or wonder if your a member of your family, a friend or anyone else might be affected by this disorder. The severity of these Autism symptoms may vary as each individual is unique. That is why it is evaluated on a spectrum.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Dr. Pauline Filipek sizes up her tiny patient in her toy-strewn clinic in Orange, Calif. As the 22-month-old boy enters the room, he doesn't look at Filipek or anyone else. He plows into a pile of toys on the floor, sometimes walking or crawling over them, but doesn't speak.
He could easily pass as a good-natured child who needs little attention. But Filipek, a neurologist, sees something else. Most toddlers will carry a toy in only one hand — this child clutched a toy in each fist when entering the room. And children this age typically will scope out a room full of strangers warily, sticking close to mom or dad for reassurance.
At the end of a 90-minute exam, she gently tells the child's mother and father — first-time parents in their 30s — their son has autism.
Filipek is among a growing number of child-development experts who say that autism often can be identified much younger than is typically done today, and that early treatment can alter, sometimes dramatically, the course of the brain disease that affects about one in 500 U.S. children.
Geraldine Dawson, director of the Autism Center at the University of Washington's Center on Human Development and Disability, says doctors now can reliably diagnose autism by age 2 and researchers are developing screening tools to identify kids as young as 18 months. "The long-range goal," she says, "is to be able to detect autism at birth or in very early infancy."
Troubling symptoms
What to look for The criteria used to diagnose autism are designed for 3-year-olds. Recent research shows certain behaviors in younger children may indicate a higher risk for developing the disorder. No single factor indicates a child may have autism; the presence of several symptoms could be cause for concern.
Possible symptoms at 6 months:
• Not making eye contact with parents during interaction
• Not cooing or babbling
• Not smiling when parents smile
• Not participating in vocal turn-taking (baby makes a sound, adult makes a sound, and so forth)
• Not responding to peekaboo game
At 14 months:
• No attempts to speak
• Not pointing, waving or grasping
• No response when name is called
• Indifferent to others
• Repetitive body motions such as rocking or hand flapping
• Fixation on a single object
• Oversensitivity to textures, smells, sounds
• Strong resistance to change in routine
• Any loss of language
At 24 months:
• Does not initiate two-word phrases (that is, doesn't just echo words)
• Any loss of words or developmental skill
Source: Rebecca Landa, Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore
Early recognition is one of the most hopeful developments in the sobering world of autism, a neurological disorder in which people have difficulty communicating and interacting socially with others.
Autistic children often speak little, ignore others and display repetitive behavior, such as spinning in circles or focusing on one object for hours. They may excel at something in detail, such as spelling or playing a musical instrument, but become overwhelmed when trying to navigate the world at large.
The disorder is also known as "autism spectrum disorder," reflecting the wide range in severity of cases and the various subtypes of autism, such as Asperger's disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.
Many doctors see the effort to diagnose autism earlier as a significant development that could yield clues to what causes autism and how best to treat it.
But the trend in early diagnosis has also created a backlog of parents who are demanding diagnostic evaluations earlier — often for babies. Doctors and insurers frequently deny these services for several reasons: Evaluations are costly, there is a lack of trained therapists and some health-care providers say autism can't reliably be identified before age 3 or 4.
Continuing study "Research on early diagnosis is coming off the press as we speak," says Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. "People are just starting to list what the red flags are in infants and toddlers."
Those lists are beginning to make their way into the hands of parents and pediatricians. This month, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch a campaign to promote earlier diagnosis of autism.
At about 8 months, Dawson says, babies should babble and pay attention when their names are called. By 12 to 14 months, they should point, wave, gesture, imitate others and play peekaboo.
"This is the age when the child points at something and looks at the mother to see if she sees it," she says. "They show things to their parents. Even before kids are using formal words, they are using their bodies for pointing and showing. This is important because with a child with autism both the verbal and nonverbal systems are affected."
In a 1994 study, Dawson and colleagues examined videotapes of the birthday parties of year-old children later diagnosed as autistic and compared them with videos of normal children. Researchers watched for four behaviors: looking at others, gesturing and pointing, showing things, and responding when their names were called. They weren't told which children were later diagnosed as autistic. Nevertheless, they were able to correctly identify 10 out of 11 normal children and 10 out of 11 autistic children.
Other potential signs of the disorder can emerge between the first and second birthdays, experts say. While most toddlers will be speaking at least a few words by 14 to 18 months, autistic children often do not. Delayed language development may not by itself indicate that a child is autistic, but a delay combined with other autism symptoms is reason for concern, doctors say.
Also, an estimated 20 percent of children with autism appear to develop normal speech, but then begin to regress, no longer speaking words they once spoke, growing silent, shunning others, becoming isolated.
A big "maybe" Doctors can only identify symptoms that may indicate autism in very young children, says Filipek, noting that the earlier the diagnosis is made, the greater the chance of misdiagnosing a child. Still many experts say they feel it's better to recognize any developmental delay and address it as early as possible.
While doctors look for specific developmental signposts, many parents are relying on their own awareness.
Cindy Bluth of San Clemente, Calif., had read about autism in women's magazines and knew enough about the disorder to begin worrying when her daughter, Juliette, was 7 months old. Cindy had three older children when she married her husband, Jon, in 2000.
"I know a little bit about babies," says Bluth. "I realized that Juliette never really looked at Jon and that my face should be her favorite 'toy,' but she did not want to look at me." Juliette was also not babbling.
When her daughter was 10 months old, Bluth called the pediatrician — telling herself she was being silly. But the pediatrician agreed that Juliette's silence and avoidance of eye contact was unusual and said he wanted to see the baby again in two months. By then, Juliette was walking on her toes (a characteristic of autism) and spent hours engrossed in the same Disney videotape.
For Bluth, the clincher came one day when she sat in the park and watched as Juliette sifted through gravel for 40 minutes, engrossed.
Juliette was diagnosed with autism shortly after her first birthday.
Vigilant parents Filipek says most early diagnoses result from parents' concerns, not pediatricians' referrals. In one 1997 study of 1,300 families, children were diagnosed with autism, on average, at age 6. However, many of the parents had sensed something was wrong when their children were about 18 months old, and they had sought medical assistance, on average, by age 2.
"Parents say, 'I have known something is wrong since they were 12 months old, and I've been from physician to physician to physician and they always say not to worry,' " Filipek says. "If you think something isn't right, 85 percent of the time you are on the money as a parent."
The CDC's new campaign aims to educate pediatricians about symptoms while urging parents to reject "wait and see" advice from a doctor.
"I think doctors are afraid of misdiagnosing this," says Bluth, who credits her pediatrician for listening to her early concerns.
Although there is little research to support its usefulness, most autism experts say that intensive therapy — which usually includes 20 or more hours a week of behavioral, speech, physical and occupational therapies — can improve a child's functioning. The earlier such therapy begins, the better, they say.
Diagnosed as autistic shortly after his first birthday, Kai Viruleg underwent extensive therapy and was able to converse, look at strangers and enter preschool by his third birthday last September. But because he no longer exhibited autistic behaviors, the school district denied Kai access to several of his previous therapies.
His mother, Jennifer Damian, had to fight to restore his services, hiring a lawyer at one point. Meanwhile, some of Kai's autistic behavior re-emerged.
"It has taken me about three months to line up new services, and he has lost a lot of ground," says Damian, of Northridge, Calif.
"Regression comes very quickly. It only takes a week of missed therapies."
Damian's determination — she quit her job to become his full-time advocate — has given Kai a chance he might not have had. Most days, Damian shuttles her son to therapy appointments, doctors' visits and school from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. After almost two years of intense intervention he is on track to enter a normal elementary school.
"I remember the day he was diagnosed, after I finished bawling I said, 'I'm going to cure him of his autism,' " Damian recalls. "Well, autism is not a curable disorder. But he would have been severely autistic at this point if we had done nothing."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Motor Skills and Play Time

This section will introduce the symptoms that affect both the motor skills and the behavior during play time.

  • You can observe a lack of interest in activities and toys.

  • A child might focus on a parts of toys rather than the whole toy, giving the impression to be mesmerized by it.

  • Someone might focus on a specific subject that fascinate him such as: a schedule, special patterns, brand of cars, etc.

  • A routine must be followed during any activity and what is said to come next or how many times it is to be done must be followed literally.

  • Some behaviors might be observed such as hand flapping, rocking, spinning, etc/

  • Both gross and fine motor skills might be showing some delay. While some motor skills might be good, some might be delayed or not developed as well.

  • Some excitement may be displayed while observing intensely some objects such as a ceiling fan, a light, etc.

  • Showing odd behavior or unusual ways during play time.

  • Developing a special or sometimes inappropriate attachment to certain objects.

  • Matching toys, lining up things while following a certain pattern, spinning objects, etc.

  • Hyperactivity or a diminution of activity level might also be present.

  • Repetitive play can be observed as well.

  • You may also notice a certain amount of clumsiness due to uneven motor skills.

Now that you are aware of the symptoms that affect the motor skills and the play of a child that is affected by the Autism Spectrum Disorder, it will be easier for you to understand and explain it to others so instead of judging, they might be more sensitive to the needs of a person with Autism.

Communication Skills

This section will introduce the symptoms that affect both the verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

  • You can notice either a delay in speaking or a lack of vocabulary. The child may also begin to speak and then there may be a gradual loss of language. Always keep in mind that close to half the children affected by Autism will never speak a word or might have just a few words.

  • Starting, following or participating to a conversation might appears to be challenging for that person.

  • Echolalia is often observed in people with Autism, especially in children. Echolalia is when someone repeats sounds, words or phrases that were heard previously.

  • Someone with Autism will tend to interpret literally a conversation which will explain why he may not understand the humor displayed, the listener point of view or read between the lines.

  • Expressing his needs or what he wants might be difficult.

Now that you understand the challenges that affect the communication skills of someone affected by Autism, you should be able to adapt more easily to his needs. For example, listen, look, take the time to pay attention and act on it right away so it will be eventually understood that communication is very important. Also, wait for his reaction or his reply which will highlight the importance of taking turns and listening well during a conversation. Impatience and judgment should never be part of your interaction with someone that has Autism.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Social Skills

This section will introduce to you the symptoms that affect the developmental problems concerning both interactions and the relationships.

  • Eye contact is difficult and can vary from occasionally to rarely established with others.

  • Body language and facial expressions are challenging to analyze and understand for someone affected by Autism.

  • Interacting and building relationship with peers is a challenging experience in itself. That explains what appears to be a lack of interest in others and that a preference for being alone might be noticed on occasions or even on a regular basis.

  • There is a lack of interest in sharing interests, achievements and feelings.

  • Understanding other people feelings is very difficult as it is so abstract and there is a lack of empathy that is experienced by someone with Autism.

  • Some aggressiveness can be displayed towards others as well himself.

  • Throwing tantrums can vary from occasionally to frequent.

  • Avoiding physical contact or the display of affection can also vary according to the mood and the need of the person.

  • Emotional reactions such as laughing can also be difficult to understand for someone who cannot seem to identify the source of this reaction.

  • Someone with Autism seems to be oblivious to the danger of some situations.

  • Educational approaches must often be adapted as the person might not respond to them otherwise.

  • Change provides insecurity as routine is safer which explains why someone might be lost without the same activities, the same order to do things, etc.

  • Oversensitivity or undersensitivity may also be affecting the life of a person with Autism in the following areas: pain, touch, taste, smell, sounds and sights.

  • An inappropriate or strong attachment to some objects may also be observed in some people.

  • Ignoring, being unresponsive to verbal communication can also be observed occasionally or more frequently.

  • Some indifference to the environment may be noticed at times.

  • The use of pointing to objects or people to indicate something might be absent or may not be displayed often.

Now you it will be easier for you to understand the challenges of someone being affected by the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Autism is often considered to be a mysterious disorders as facts and myths are mixed together as there are not many people who are actually well informed about it. A big part of the population believes that people who are affected by Autism are unable to express feelings, affection or are incapable of communicating with others at all. That does not reflect the reality. Autistic people do have feelings but are having difficulty to interpret them and are having problems to communicate appropriately and effectively which make them seem awkward and misunderstood.

The symptoms severity level vary from a person to another. Nonetheless, each person affected by the Autism Spectrum Disorder displays some of the following areas: social interactions, communication and play. That is why this disorder is evaluated on a spectrum as it displays such variations. The main symptoms that will be shared with you can be all or partially present depending of the person's individual condition.