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Autism is a widely discussed topic - lately, you can hear about it everywhere. You may have seen the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, or the Netflix TV show Atypical, where characters with Asperger’s Syndrome (a type of autism) are common. Unfortunately, people tend to say ‘autistic’ if they want to say something negative about others as well. In this article, I would like to talk about autism, and specifically how to recognize its symptoms in children.
What is autism?
Autism (also known as Autism spectrum disorder) is a term describing a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. Among these disorders you can find Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
What are the symptoms of autism?
As you can read in Kristeen Cherney’s article, symptoms of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) usually start to manifest themselves between the first and second year of a child's life, although it could also be earlier or later. Common symptoms of autism are problems with communication and social interaction, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities, defined in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Practically, it means that children with autism have trouble with relationships, often they don’t know how to properly interact with others, and other social difficulties, such as communicating their needs and understanding others. They also tend to have specific routines, rituals and behaviors, also such as when they play: for example, if a child with autism would have a toy-car, they would maybe just spin its wheels and watch them spinning instead of playing with the toy like it was a real car. Kids with autism often find it difficult to respond to social cues, such as not looking you in the eye while you're talking to them, seem deaf, and not respond when called by their name.
What you should be aware of:
Early recognition of the Autism spectrum disorder in children could be crucial for upcoming treatment and therapy. If you want to check whether your child could have ASD, there is a questionnaire called M-CHAT that can help you. It is intended for 16-30 months old toddlers. You can find it here: https://www.autismspeaks.org/screen-your-child If the results show that there is a risk of ASD, reach out to your doctor because this questionnaire doesn’t confirm the diagnosis as a medical professional would.
Being a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder must be unimaginably hard, challenging, and exhausting. There are various social services that could answer some questions and support the whole family taking care of children with ASD. There are therapies and methodical tools which are intended for kids with autism and which help these kids make great progress. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
I hope you find this article useful. I wish you all a lot of strength in facing the challenges that life brings you.
Author: Pája Macečková