What Is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a neurological developmental disorder that affects an individual's ability to communicate and interact with others. It is diagnosed 4:1 in a boys to girls ratio and now affects 1 in 66 individuals in Canada.
ASD typically affects three areas of development:
- Social Interaction
Symptoms and behaviours can range widely, and no two individual with ASD is the same. It is a lifelong disorder with presentation changing with development over the lifespan. More than half of children and youth had received their diagnoses by age 6 and more than 90% of children and youth are diagnosed by age 12.
Signs of ASD in Early Childhood
- No babbling by 11 months old
- No simple gestures by 12 months old (i.e. waving goodbye)
- No simple words by 16 months old
- No two-word phrases by 24 months old (i.e. noun+verb = "baby sleeping")
- No response when name is called
- Loss of language or social skills at any age
- Odd or repetitive movements of fingers or hands
- Oversensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights
- Lack of interest in toys, or plays with toys in an unusual way
- Compulsions or rituals (i.e. has to perform activities in a certain sequence, prone to tantrums if ritual is interrupted)
- Preoccupations with unusual interests (i.e. light switches)
- Unusual fears
- Rarely makes eye contact while interacting with people
- Does not play peek-a-boo
- Doesn't point to show things they're interested in
- Rarely smiles socially
- More interested in looking at objects than at people's faces
- Prefers to play alone
- Doesn't make attempts to get parents' attention
- Doesn't follow or look up when someone is pointing at something
- Seems to be "in his or her own world"
- Doesn't respond to parents' attempts to play, even if relaxed
- Avoids or ignores other children who approach them
If you think your child exhibits a number of these signs, we recommend that you ask your family doctor or pediatrician for a referral for a developmental assessment or referral to a developmental specialist for a formal evaluation.
Early diagnosis of ASD is critical. Although there is no cure for ASD, interventions and treatments can drastically improve language development, behaviour management, social interactions and learning other crucial skills. The sooner interventions start the better their impact will be.
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