Autism is characterized by impairment of the individual’s ability to communicate and engage in social relationships, and by repetitive behaviors. This neurological disorder manifests itself in 1 out of every 100 births .
It is a complex condition that affects the development of the child, usually diagnosed around the age of 3, and there are no differences in terms of its appearance in different cultures or social classes. It is more common in boys than in girls and according to the DSM-V belongs to the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
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Signs of Autism
Each individual with autism experiences symptoms differently and with different degrees of severity. However, the following 10 signs and symptoms are considered to be the warning symptoms of autism in children :
1. Disconnection with others
Children with autism are often distant or disconnected from their loved ones (parents, siblings, etc.). For example, they may appear not to have an emotional connection to these people and not understand the difference between facial cues. In other words, children with autism often do not react differently to a frown or a smile from someone else.
Studies of this disorder indicate that people with autism are unable to formulate an explanation for the thinking or behavior of others. In other words, they have a deficit in the theory of mind. The theory of mind refers to the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes.
2. The apparent lack of empathy
Another common characteristic of children with autism, which also has to do with the theory of mind, is that they have difficulty empathizing with others. Although lack of empathy can be difficult to detect and assess in infants and young children effectively, there are specific signs that show a lack of empathy.
Autistic children seem to have difficulty understanding or appreciating situations from other people’s perspectives. This is because they think everyone understands the world as they do, which can cause confusion or the inability to foresee or understand the actions of others.
3. Are indifferent to social interactions
The vast majority of children are naturally very sociable. However, children with autism do not spend time looking at other people’s faces, responding to hearing their name, imitating the facial expressions of others, or holding the hands of others during play. Instead, cChildren with autism often do not seem very interested in participating in normal child developmental games and activities , including socializing and imitating others.
These signs begin to appear at 18 months of age, and as socialization with others continues, the symptoms may become more noticeable. For example, at 3 years of age, normal children often want to play with toys with other children. Autistic children, on the other hand, prefer to play alone .
4. Presence of emotional outbursts
In some cases, children with autism may show disproportionate emotional reactions in apparently normal situations . For example, temper tantrums inappropriate to the context or physically aggressive behavior toward themselves (e.g., hitting their head), their parents, siblings, or others.
They may seem unable to control their emotions and physical responses, especially when they are in new, strange, or stressful situations.Parents should carefully monitor their children’s social responses throughout their development, and become familiar with the important times and behavioral expectations a child should show when he or she reaches a certain age. Although relatively rare, such emotional outbursts should be considered and referred to a specialist , as they can help make a correct diagnosis.
5. Language developmental delay
By the age of 2, most babies start babbling or imitating the language of those who interact with them , and pronouncing a single word when they point to an object or try to get their parents’ attention.
However, children with autism do not start babbling or talking until much later. In fact, some do not begin to show significant language skills until they start working with a speech therapist .
6.Prone to non-verbal communication
Because autistic children do not develop verbal communication skills at the same time as normal children, they may show a propensity for nonverbal communication.
For example, they can use visual or physical means of communication , such as drawings or gestures to make requests or participate in a return dialogue. Another telltale sign of autism is that children may show a decline in their verbal skills; for example, they may lose vocabulary.
7. Difficulty understanding figurative expressions
Often, children with autism also have trouble understanding that people sometimes express themselves figuratively . As mentioned, they do not derive any secondary meaning from attitude or facial expressions, nor do they detect signs of communication based on the tone of voice; for example, they do not distinguish a happy tone of voice from a sad or angry one.
Another related symptom is that children with autism tend to have more trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is fiction . Interestingly, autistic children can be imaginatively very alive, and some seem to prefer to inhabit their own imaginary worlds.
8. Show repetitive behaviors
Individuals with autism are more likely to show repetitive behaviors .
For example, they may organize and rearrange the same group of objects, back and forth for long periods of time, or obsessively repeat the same word or phrase. This is one of the most easily identifiable symptoms.
Pica syndrome is associated with autism since 30% of children with this disorder also have Pica .
This behavior is characterized by children ingesting substances that are not nutritious, such as soil, rocks, paper, or biological substances. Although Pica can also be seen in other young children, individuals with autism continue to engage in this practice at later ages.
10. Sensitivity to external stimuli
Sensitivity to external stimuli is another early warning sign of autism . For example, individuals with autism may become stressed or agitated when exposed to specific noises, bright lights, particular tastes or smells, and some autistic children may avoid certain colors, clothes, sounds, lights, or areas of the home for no apparent reason.
However, they can also become extremely sensitive to certain stimuli, and will insist on wearing certain clothes or colours , rooms with bright lights or loud sounds, and enjoy touching or playing with specific parts of the body. Many children with autism also experience emotional stress when deprived of their favorite stimuli.