Autism has broad-spectrum syndromes, and cannot be perfectly determined by any medical test. It is purely based on child development and behaviour. Usually, the first person to analyze an issue with the child is the parent or caregiver, as they observe the child’s development from the very first day. It is always good to keep a track of child development from a very early age, and to have knowledge of growth milestones.
There are certain points to be considered by parents while assessing at an early stage if a child has autism, or has any type of developmental delay. These can be noted down, and if need be, can be shared with a doctor who specialises in the developmental aspects of a child.
These points are –
1. Eye contact – The first thing a parent should check is if the child makes proper eye contact while playing and talking, and is able to track people or objects being shown.
2. Expression – Gestures are very important, like smiling when happy, upset when not given something, angry when not asked, etc. These emotions or expressions in your child can be easily checked by playing with the child, offering toys, hiding his/her favourite item, etc.
3. Pointing to Things – Pointing at an object is what every child does, even before he/she knows how to speak. Children know what they want, and will find a way to convey it to you. However, if a child does not point to any item or object, it needs to be addressed and noted (to be shared with a doctor).
4. Reactions to Environment (smells, sounds, sight, texture, etc.) – If a child is sensitive to smells, loud sounds or any type of sound, does not like labels on clothes or feels very uncomfortable in certain materials, it could be noted.
5. Behaviour – Child behaviour plays a major role in day-to-day activities. If a child is angry at something or with someone, it does not mean that child has issues, because it’s human to feel those emotions. However, if the child does not seem to have control on his/her aggression, has meltdowns without any reason, or seems to suffer from anxiety, it is to be noted.
6. Responding to Own Name – If a child does not respond to his/her name, it is a warning sign, because his/her own name is the first thing which the child understands and responds to.
9. Play Time – If a child is playing with a part of an object, like spinning its wheel continuously, lining up objects like toys, chairs etc., not engaging in pretend play, is not interested in a simple play like hiding and seeking a favourite toy, and does not like changes (in routine, eating/sleeping pattern, play things, etc.), it should be noted and discussed with a doctor.
10. There are few more points which are considered in child developmental delay, which include –
No social skills; want to be alone
No awareness of danger; lack of fear
Lacking in gross motor functioning, such as using large muscles of body for jumping, running, climbing stairs and coming down, etc.
Lacking in fine motor functioning, such as using small muscle in work like putting beads in string, eating, writing, buttoning clothes, turning pages, etc.
Having repetitive behaviour, such as repetition of words or playing one song again and again
11. They may also show some sensory issues, which can be addressed and resolved by Occupational therapy, Sensory and Integration Therapy, and more.
These issues can easily be noticed by parents at home, and then be further discussed with a doctor for further investigations. It’s very important to help children in their growth and development in their early phase of life!
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