What is autism and could my child have autism? Everything you need to know about the signs – Netmums

Experts agree that early diagnosis of autism benefits not just the person with autism, but the whole family. Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It just means your brain works in a different way from other people. And being autistic does not have to stop your child having a good life. Know the signs to look out for so you can get the support your child needs and reduce stress for them – and you – sooner. I wouldn’t change my autistic children for the world What is an EHCP and how do I get one for my child? New free childcare scheme saves parents £7k a year Am I eligible for new Cost of Living payment? My daughter masked her autism for 13 years What is autism? What is autism? Autism is something a person is born with. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life. Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a ‘cure.’ The National Autistic Society describes autism as a ‘lifelong developmental disability that affects how someone communicates and interacts with the world.’ Autism – or Autism Spectrum Disorder to give it its medical name – is a condition with a spectrum of symptoms. Therefore it affects people in different ways and to varying degrees. These usually show up in infancy or early childhood and cause delays in basic areas of development, such as speech, play, and interacting with others. However, in some people, signs of autism might not be noticed until a person is older. So, you may have a child on one end of the spectrum who is non-verbal and needs 24 hour care and on the other end of the spectrum, a child might just struggle to tolerate changes to their routine – both with a diagnosis of autism. However, according to Dr.Ted Hutman, an assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry writing on HelpGuide.org: ‘Every child on the autism spectrum has problems, at least to some degree, in the following three areas….’ Communicating verbally and non-verbally Relating to others and the world around them Thinking and behaving flexibly How common is autism in children?  How common is autism in children? One thing’s for sure, it’s becoming a lot more common. In fact, according to a recent article in the Guardian, one in 36 children are now believed to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), compared to one in 2,500 80 years ago. This rise is partly due to greater awareness and understanding of autism, as well as a broadening of the criteria boundaries needed for a diagnosis. What causes autism? Nobody knows what causes autism, or if it has a cause. It can affect people in the same family. So it may sometimes be passed on to a child by their parents. Autism is: not caused by bad parenting not caused by vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine not linked to diet not an infection you can spread to other people What are the signs of autism in younger children? What are the signs of autism in younger children? Although autism is hard to diagnose before the age of two, signs and symptoms are often present between 12 and 18 months. Children with autism have difficulty with speech and language and often start talking late. However, it’s important to remember that whilst speech delays are very common among autistic children, they are also common in children without autism and could be due to other issues, such as hearing loss. What sets apart speech delays in children with autism is that they often occur along with other communication issues, such as lack of eye contact, an absence of ‘baby babbling’ pointing at objects and other gestures to communicate what they want. The fact that signs of autism in very young children tend to be things they are not doing rather than are doing, makes them hard to spot. There are signs, however if you know what to look out for and the NHS list includes: not responding to their name not smiling when you smile at them getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body For more information, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/signs/children/ Signs of Autism in Older Children: Signs of Autism in Older Children: As children get older, the signs for autism get more diverse. However, they typically revolve around problems with social skills, speech and language difficulties and inflexible behaviour. ‘Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder’, explains Dr. Ted Hutman. ‘Many kids find it hard to make friends and seem to prefer to live in their own world, detached from others.’ Autistic children can also be much more sensitive to sights, smells, textures, and loud noises. Sometimes this feeling of overwhelm can cause them to react strongly for example, shouting or hitting out. They have trouble picking up on nonverbal cues, like body language and facial expressions, which can also make the ‘give and take’ of relationships hard. The NHS list of signs of autism in older children includes: not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling unusual speech, such as repeating phrases and talking ‘at’ others having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like “break a leg” finding it hard to say how they feel For more information visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/signs/children/ Are signs of autism different for boys and girls? Are signs of autism different for boys and girls? Often, yes. Also, autism is often harder to spot in girls for two main reasons: 1) signs of autism present differently in girls 2) girls are generally better at masking their autistic traits Mum Katie explains how her daughter masked autism for 13 years and how she went about getting a diagnosis. Doctors and other healthcare professionals can also lack knowledge about autism in girls making diagnosis more difficult. The latest statistics show autism is three times more prevalent in girls than boys, but this could be due to lack of understanding about the differences in the warning signs in girls. The National Autistic Society says: ‘At school teachers can miss differences because autistic girls are more likely than autistic boys to be part of a friendship group. ‘Or sometimes, their academic achievements can mask other problems they’re having.’ Also, traits including their repetitive behaviours, which stereotypically include having a fascination with trains or mathematical formulas, might be similar to non-autistic girls, such as twirling hair or reading books, and so may go unnoticed. One thing the experts do agree on is that for some girls, the stress of masking their difficulties with autism can result in anxiety and overwhelm which too can be hard to spot. What to do if you’re concerned your child has autism  What to do if you’re concerned your child has autism You know your child better than anyone, so trust your gut and don’t underestimate the importance of your own observations and experience and take action if you are concerned. Remember that every child develops at a different pace, however, so don’t panic if your child is a little late to talk or walk. If you do suspect a problem, share your concerns with your child’s doctor immediately. Don’t accept a ‘ wait-and-see approach ’ You risk losing valuable time at an age where your child has the best chance of being supported in the way that will help them the most. Ideally, your child’s doctor will take your concerns seriously and give your child a thorough evaluation for autism. However sometimes, even well-meaning doctors can ounderestimate problems, so if your gut is telling you something is wrong, be persistent, seek a second opinion, or ask for a referral to a child development specialist.

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