Autism Awareness Month

Autism

In light of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to write a post dedicated to Autism!  The prevelance of Autism has SKYROCKETED in recent years, and SLP’s are finding more and more children with Autism on their caseloads.  Therefore, it’s important for parents to know the basics about Autism and the warning signs to look for.

What is Autism?

Autism is characterized by deficits in three main areas: social interactions, communication, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.  Challenges and characteristics of children with Autism are as varied as the children themselves.  As the saying goes, “If you know one child with Autism, you know one child with Autism!”  So, although all children with Autism show some deficit in each of the three areas, the type and severity of the deficits vary widely.

What Causes Autism?

Researches are still looking for the answer to that question; however, we do know a few things about the cause of Autism.  First, there is no one cause.  Causes of Autism vary almost as widely as the types of Autism.  However, researchers have been able to isolate rare gene mutations that may be related to Autism.  Those genes, matched with environmental triggers that occur during pregnancy and shortly after birth, may be the cause of Autism in many instances.

Warning Signs of Autism

Social Skills

  • Poor eye contact
  • Fails to respond to name
  • Resists cuddling
  • Fails to understand others’ feelings
  • Prefers to play alone and retreats into his own world

Language

  • Delayed language and/or loses previously acquired language skills
  • Does not follow directions
  • Repeats sentences said to him, but does not understand sentences
  • Difficulty participating in conversation

Behavior

  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, kicking, flapping, and spinning
  • Is agitated when routines are not followed exactly
  • May be sensitive to textures, light, sound, or certain foods

According to to Mayoclinic.com, your child should see a doctor if they have any of the following warning signs:

  • Doesn’t respond with a smile or happy expression by 6 months
  • Doesn’t mimic sounds or facial expressions by 6 months
  • Doesn’t babble or coo by 12 months
  • Doesn’t use gestures, such as pointing and waving, by 12 months
  • Doesn’t say single words by 16 months
  • Doesn’t say 2-word phrases by 24 months
  • Loses previously acquired language and/or social skills at any age

What Should I Do If I am Concerned About My Child?

If you are concerned about your child’s development, see a doctor.  DO NOT WAIT!  A diagnosis of Autism is a scarey thing, but your child will still have Autism even if they are left undiagnosed.  Ignoring a problem will not make it disappear.  If your child does have Autism, or any other developmental disorder, it is best to find out early and begin treatment.  The sooner a child is diagnosed, the earlier they can begin treatment, and the better off they will be as they grow and develop.  Autism is a life-long disorder, but early and consistent treatment can greatly improve your child’s quality of life.

Until next time,

Aersta Acerson

A Utah Speech Therapist

References:

Please visit the following websites for more information.

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