Five Signs That Your Child May Be Autistic
Facts & Figures
A study conducted in 2014 by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 1 in 45 children in the United States live with autism spectrum disorder.1 That is almost 2.3% of American children.
Why is this number so high? Researchers suspect that part of the reason may simply be that today there is much more awareness—and therefore diagnosis—of the condition than there was in previous generations.
Initially diagnosed as a mental illness before the turn of the 20th century, research during the last 30 years has finally paved the way for doctors to treat autistic patients. For years, people with autism were ridiculed and put on a circus show, but during the 1990s, new therapies were developed to give autistic children the necessary tools to attend school. Most autistic people never graduate high school with a regular diploma. Only a few of them do—but those few often succeed in life.
There are many signs that doctors and parents look for in children with autism. I will discuss five examples below.
My Own Version of Today's Autism Prevalence Chart.
Autism Prevalence and Annual Projected Cost
My Background (and a Disclaimer)
I am autistic myself—but in no way, shape, or form am I a doctor. I've tried my best to research this topic without copying information from other sources. Bear with me here. This is just my opinion, and not anybody else's. If you are seeking a medical opinion, you should go to your doctor for professional guidance. My perspective on this subject may be biased because of my background.
5 Signs Your Child May Be Autistic
1. Child Doesn't Play With Other People
Non-autistic children enjoy playing and interacting with other children by the time they reach the age of 2-8 years old. They will play, show affection, and maybe even tussle with each other. Autistic children, on the other hand, tend to prefer being alone. They do not seem to enjoy playing with other children or interacting with adults.
Often, autistic children don't seem to share other people's interests or enjoy playing games. They don't participate in group or family activities, which can be disconcerting to parents. If your child exhibits these kinds of behaviors, you should call a doctor. If the doctor tells you that it's normal behavior, find another doctor.
2. Child Makes Noises to Get Your Attention
Grunting, whining, repetitive vocalizing, throwing food, and banging on the table is perhaps to be expected if your baby is six months old—but not when your child is nearly four years old. This may be another sign that your child is autistic. You can try to reduce these behaviors by not having any items near the table, taking good care of your child, and encouraging your child to use words.
Talking with your child may help, but only after you teach your child some words, first. If at first you don't succeed, keep trying again, and again, and again, and again, and again—as often as you can to encourage your child to speak.
(I should note, however, that some autistic children never do gain the ability to say more than a few words, if any. I'm not at all suggesting that you keep trying to get your nonverbal child to speak; nor am I suggesting that if your child is nonverbal that somehow it's because you haven't tried hard enough to encourage them to speak.)
3. Child Has Trouble Understanding or Talking About Feelings
Whether it's love, happiness, sadness, hate, or heartbreak, many autistic children have trouble talking about their feelings or understanding other people's feelings.
Puberty is a particularly challenging time because hormonal changes can exacerbate an autistic child's behavioral issues. At this age, all children may begin to experience things like crushes, drama with friends, bullies at school, and increasing homework loads. For an autistic child, these issues can be much more complicated to navigate.
Parents may seek help from doctors to mitigate these challenges, and some doctors may start prescribing pills. My opinion is that pills are not a good solution. Doctors may prescribe a new pill in an attempt to fix autism, but then the side effects kick in.
Parents, if your child has communication problems, please talk to them. It will make them feel better in the end. Try to speak to them as soon as possible. Don't let them hide their feelings inside, like soda in a bottle with a pressure of 100 atmospheres.
4. Child Uses Incorrect Grammar or Refers to Him/Herself in the Third Person
Don't get me wrong. A lot of autistic people make this mistake when speaking. For example, instead of saying, "Have you guys met the new therapist at work today?" they say "Did you guys met the new therapist at work today?" and that's totally cool. I get it. It's the natural language of autistic people. They are subject to producing grammatically incorrect sentences, and that's okay. It's the frequency that annoys a lot of people.
There is a common perception that many autistic people refer to themselves in the third person. I can explain that one for you. Third person means using the words "he" or "she" to refer to a person. Take a fictional person, such as a person named John Doe. If he refers himself in first person, he would say "I am playing softball." If he refers to himself in second person, he would say "You are playing softball" (but referring to himself). If John uses third person, he would say, "He is playing softball" (again, referring to himself).
See what I'm saying? Autistic people always love to refer to themselves in third person.
5. Child Is Sensitive to Loud Noises and Bright Lights, and Also Makes Strange Movements
While it is true that loud noises and bright lights can be very irritating for normal people, autistic people can be particularly sensitive to these things because of how their nervous systems have developed. Higher sensitivity to light means that autistic people with no history of seizures may be prone to them, and a higher sensitivity to sound means that they may develop hearing problems down the road.
Autistic children may also exhibit unusual movements. This is often a self-soothing process. These movements can vary unpredictably from bending backwards to bending completely forwards when emotions run high. For some people, it develops in early childhood but dissipates in adulthood. For others, it's a lifelong behavior.
Tips for Parents
If your child is autistic, here are a few tips to consider:
- Don't give up on your child, even if he/she has severe autism.
- Don't be afraid to call the doctor if you see any of these five signs. Helpguide.org has a more complete list of signs.
- Apply for an individualized education plan (IEP) at your child's school in order to get the individually tailored help your child needs.
- Don't stop fighting for your child's education. Fight until he/she gets a regular diploma. Don't stop fighting for your child's rights.
- Give your child a gluten-free diet.
- Finally, don't give up—even if your child has.
Autistic people very interesting and complex. People on the autism spectrum are very intelligent and can do many things ordinary people can't. Some have special skills in drawing or art. For others it is writing. Some can do complex math problems in their heads. All I know is that every single autistic person is special and deserves to have a meaningful, purposeful life.
Autistic Teen Explains What It's Really Like
Autism Guide at Every Age
Monitor their progress
Early therapy is key
Make education plans
Make college plans if your child graduates high school with a regular diploma
Call the doctor
Have your child develop skills
Plan for the future
Make job plans
Nurture the child
Keep your eyes on your child
Make sure your child succeeds
Manage your child's behavior
Excellent Book by a Professional Autism Consultant
This is an excellent book written by a professional autism consultant who has three children on the spectrum. It's great resource for parents of autistic children everywhere.
Are you, or any of your family members, friends and/or relatives, autistic?
1. "New government survey pegs autism prevalence at 1 in 45." AutismSpeaks.org. November 13, 2015.
All names have been changed to protect peoples' identities.