Autism Spectrum Disorder: Signs, Screenings & Next Steps
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), generally referred to as autism, is a developmental disability that can cause a range of social, behavioral, and communication challenges. According to the CDC, autism affects 1 in every 68 children. While there are many types of autism, it’s important for parents to recognize the most common signs. Early screening and intervention can help improve the quality of life for a child with autism.
Know the Signs of ASD
The most common signs of autism tend to appear when a child is between 2 and 3 years old. Children may not display every symptom, but there are two main behaviors to look for: restricted and repetitive actions and social communication challenges. These behaviors can manifest in the following ways:
- Repeating certain actions over and over
- Performing repetitive behaviors like spinning, rocking, or flapping
- Getting upset with a small change in routine
- Avoiding eye contact
- Having trouble communicating verbally or relating to others
- Preferring not to be held or cuddled
- Having unusual or intense reactions to sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and colors
When to Screen Your Children
Experts recommend pediatricians screen all children at their 18- and 24-month check-ups and whenever a parent or doctor has concerns. If your child is showing any or all of these signs at any time, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician right away. Early identification and intervention are crucial to improving outcomes for a child with autism.
Because autism affects individuals differently, there are many interventions and treatment options. Talking with your child’s pediatrician is the best way to create a plan moving forward. Your doctor may recommend medication, occupational therapy, learning programs, intervention plans, and support groups for your family. A pediatrician can also assist in the treatment of medical issues that may accompany the disorder.