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10 Signs of Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects an individual’s social and communication abilities. The earliest signs manifest in the before 3 years of age and therapeutic treatments are the only possible cure to autism. Early detection is helpful in ensuring that the kind of special attentive care an autistic child requires is duly extended to him. Coping mechanisms need to be evolved by both the minor and the parents. Therefore, as parents, you must be sensitive to your child’s behavioral characteristics – the following signs should alert you the possibility of him having autism.

1. Intense Struggle with Ordinary Activity
All children have a different developmental pace and personal traits too. Some take to concepts of sociability, playing, hygiene, etc. faster than others. Others may be slower learners. However, if you find your child to be struggling with all kinds of ordinary activities, you should begin being more observant. If there seems to be no improvement in your child’s adeptness at understanding/accepting concepts despite repeated emphasis, he could be autistic.

2. Extraordinary Sensitivity
Autistic children process sensory input in a different way from others. Thus, they often display an extraordinary sensitivity to external stimuli such as light, sound, taste, smells, texture, colour, etc. You may find your kid being very particular about the colour of their clothing, foods of a particular viscosity or taste, so on and so forth. While all children have their likes, dislikes and pet peeves, autistic children display great fixity and consistency in their preferences.

3. Extreme Lack of Sensitivity
Sometimes autism may lead to hyposensitivity instead of hypersensitivity. In this scenario, children may not respond with the kind of instinctive reaction on exposure to stimuli as you would expect. They may often put themselves in dangerous situations being visibly unperturbed by the consequences. If you find your kid burning himself in the shower, being nonchalant in the cold, feeling nothing on insect bites, etc., you should take it as a warning sign.

4. Repetitive Actions
Most autistic children display a proclivity towards repetitive actions. They may exhibit a typical bodily movement or facial expressions with recurrent frequency. They may even have a compulsive need for certain routines and patterns to be maintained on a daily basis. You kid getting too upset about the arrangement of his toys a different way or the time/place/order in which you serve food should not be taken lightly – consider getting him tested for autism.

5. Attachment to Objects
Ask any parent and he or she will say that their kid has a favourite toy or outfit or object they are very attached to. Autistic kids tend to develop an unusual attachment to objects such that they interact with them as replacement for people. They will talk to them, care for them as if they are living, be very drawn in by the object’s physical characteristic, so on and so forth. Caressing the object often, being very concerned about its placement/whereabouts, etc. are typically witnessed.

6. Aloofness
Since autism portends underdevelopment of one’s social skills, aloofness is a common trait in most autistic children. They will prefer to stay away from their peers, spend time with inanimate objects than with humans, and seldom interact with even a known person with much involvement. Such aloofness is often confused with shyness and is admittedly not a very specific or telling characteristic to be relying upon. However, when present with other symptoms, it could be helpful in detection of the condition.

7. Struggle in Communication
Autism often manifests in a child as seriously hampered communication ability. Those with autism will rarely ever start conversations and respond unsatisfactorily to someone else’s attempts too. Such kids will seem oblivious to the general protocols of interaction such as making eye contact with the speaker, talking at an audible pitch, doing what is asked of them, etc. Such struggles with communication do not seem to be eliminated with ageing, as would be normal with most children.

8. Fascinations/Fixations
Even as autistic kids may struggle with ordinary skills and daily chores, you may find them to be highly fascinated or knowledgeable about something in particular. They may have a specialized interest which leads them to garner as much information about something as possibly, with far more thoroughness than you would expect from a child

9. Self-Injury
In some cases, autistic children do not develop the natural instinct of “once bitten, twice shy”. They may injure themselves in the same way, seemingly habitually, without stemming the injurious action. They may bang their head repeatedly, poke their eye over and over again, pick at their skin and so on

10. Obvious Delays in Development
Not all children grow and develop in such regimented fashion, but you should be aware of the typical milestones anyway. Most babies are found babbling and gesturing within 12 months, speaking single words in 16 months and saying 2-3 word phrases within 24 months. If your kid’s pace is far off of these markers, having them checked for autism would be prudent.

By the lecturer

Assistant Professor Wamith Hamid

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