Some characteristics of Autistic children are:
- displays strong independence (gets desired object themself rather than asking an adult)
- displays strong attention to things they are interested in (sometimes described as "zoned in")
- avoids eye contact (this can be painful for some)
- prefers to not be held or cuddled often OR wanting to be held/ cuddled all the time
- repeating or echo sounds/words/ phrases said to them in place of self generated language
- appearing to "lose" skills they once had (e.g., stop saying words they were using)
- prefers concrete play rather than “pretend” games
- prefers sensory rich play (jumping off furniture into pillows or free falling on the bed)
- enjoys organizational play (lining toys or loved objects)
- repeating actions or body movements over and over again (aka stimming)
- preferring a rigid routine
- being inquisitive of the mechanics of toys (examining parts of toys and their engineering)
- being very interested or avoid things based on the way they smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
The first step is always to write down a list of your concerns to discuss them with your pediatrician. When you visit with your pediatrician about your concerns they most likely will have you complete the M-CHAT, a screening tool designed to identify children who may benefit from a more thorough Autism evaluation. If your pediatrician deems it necessary they may refer you to a specialist that is trained to administer the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) or the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS-2). Usually these specialists are a child neurologist, developmental pediatricians, an educational psychologist, an Autism Specialist, or a speech-language pathologist. The ADOS-2 is a testing instrument utilized for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder. The diagnosing physician should always have input from a speech-language pathologist and an occupational therapist.
There are many falsely advertised “cures” to Autism or promises to "train" the Autistic child until they don't look Autistic. These are very concerning and can be dangerous and harmful. There is NO cure for Autism because it is not a sickness. Typically, Autistic children enroll in speech-language therapy and occupational therapy due to weaknesses. ABA therapy is another therapy that is often recommended in large quantities; however, ABA is a compliance based training and only teaches children compliance and masking skills, which has been linked to C-PTSD. Speech-language and occupational therapies address weaknesses from social skills (interacting with others) without masking, receptive language skills (understanding others), expressive language skills ( communicating wants and needs, verbally or non-speaking using a communication device), narrative language, self-care needs (grooming, brushing teeth, feeding skills), sensory processing skills (responding to sensory experiences such as through touch, taste, sound, and movement), executive functioning skills, and behavior. If you have concerns about Autism it is important to share those concerns with your family doctor, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or neurologist.