What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disability that causes problems with social skills and communication. Autism can be mild or severe. It is different for every person. Autism is also known as autism spectrum disorders.
What are some signs or symptoms of autism?
Children with autism may have problems with communication, social skills, and reacting to the world around them. Not all behaviors will exist in every child. Possible signs and symptoms are outlined below.
Autism and Communication
- Not speaking or very limited speech.
- Loss of words the child was previously able to say.
- Difficulty expressing basic wants and needs.
- Poor vocabulary development
- Problems following directions or finding objects that are named
- Repeating what is said (echolalia)
- Problems answering questions
- Speech that sounds different (e.g., “robotic” speech)
Autism and Social Skills
- Poor eye contact with people or objects
- Poor play skills (pretend or social play)
- Being overly focused on a topic or objects that interest them
- Problems making friends
- Crying, becoming angry, giggling, or laughing at inappropriate times
- Disliking being touched or held
Interacting with the World Around Them
- Rocking, hand flapping or other movements (self-stimulating movements)
- Not paying attention to things the child sees or hears
- Problems dealing with changes in routine
- Using objects in unusual ways and unusual attachments to objects
- No fear of real dangers
- Being either very sensitive or not sensitive enough to touch, light, or sounds
- Feeding difficulties (accepting only select foods, refusing certain textures) 1
- Sleep problems
How is Autism Diagnosed?
It is important to have your child evaluated by professionals who know about autism. Autism is typically diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist or a child psychologist. In some clinics a team approach is preferred.
The team might include pediatricians, neurologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and developmental specialists, among others. SLPs play a key role because problems with social skills and communication are often the first symptoms of autism. SLPs should be consulted early in the evaluation process.
There are a number of tests and observational checklists available to evaluate children with developmental problems. The most important information, however, comes from parents and caregivers who know the child best and can inform the health professional.
If there are concerns speak with the pediatrician about receiving a referral to the appropriate professionals.
What treatments are available for people with autism?
There is no known cure for autism. In some cases, medications and dietary restrictions may help control symptoms. Intervention should begin when the child is young.
Early intervention and preschool programs are very important. An evaluation by an SLP should be completed to determine social skill and communication needs. An appropriate treatment plan that meets the needs of the child and family can then be established.
Treatment may include any combination of traditional speech and language approaches, augmentative and alternative communication, and behavioral interventions.