Today it's estimated that 1 in every 110 children is diagnosed with some form of autism. That's more than cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. That's too many, and no doubt a huge source of concern for parents who wonder if their child will be affected by this strange and mysterious disorder that can have devastating effects for life.
Everyone has an idea of what autism looks like, and many of us study our children for any telltale signs of it. The problem is that many of the symptoms alone are perfectly normal in children, but it's a collection of them together that can indicate autism. For example, my son loved ceiling fans, which worried me to no end because I'd read that a fascination with ceiling fans could indicate autism. In our case, he just so happened to like fans, but otherwise developed typically.
While it can be difficult to balance watchfulness and worry when it comes to our children's health, it's important to know what to look for because early intervention can be so vital in the treatment of autism. No two children with autism are exactly the same, but here's a list from the Mayo Clinic of 18 common traits of children with autism that encompass social skills, behavior, and language.
1. Fails to respond to his or her name
2. Has poor eye contact
3. Appears not to hear you at times
4. Resists cuddling and holding
5. Appears unaware of others' feelings
6. Seems to prefer playing alone -- retreats into his or her "own world"
7. Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months
8. Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
9. Doesn't make eye contact when making requests
10. Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm -- may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
11. Can't start a conversation or keep one going
12. May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
13. Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping
14. Develops specific routines or rituals
15. Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals
16. Moves constantly
17. May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car
18. May be unusually sensitive to light, sound, and touch and yet oblivious to pain
It's a good list to be familiar with, not to obsess over but to help you identify any red flags. The site provides other helpful information about the disorder as well. If you have any concerns, however, the best thing to do is contact your doctor. Sitting home and obsessing over things like ceiling fans isn't going to do anyone any good.
Do you worry about symptoms of autism in your child?
Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr
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