There are certain milestones that children typically hit which are a good indicator that things are going as they should be. How a child responds to a parent or caretaker increases as they grow from an infant to a toddler and beyond. As a parent, you have instincts and a pretty clear understanding of your child’s habits and abilities, so when something feels off, it’s time to do a little investigating.
Checking off the milestone list of what your child should be able to do by certain ages is a great way to see if there is any discrepancy in what most children are able to do at their age. There are exceptions – for example, in multi-lingual homes it’s not unusual for a child’s speech to be slightly delayed because they are processing more than one language at a time. When that’s not the case, or when other indicators suggest there could be an issue, staying calm and getting informed is your best plan of action.
As difficult as it is to even suspect that your child could be autistic, it is best to be honest about their abilities and habits, and to discuss any changes in their behavior with your pediatrician. But how do you know if there is really something wrong as opposed to a natural delay in their growth? Here are some indicators that may be cause for concern:
Children with Autism have a difficult time:
- Showing empathy
- Engaging with others
- Communicating with people, including parents and siblings
- Making friends or playing with others
- Maintaining eye contact
- Pointing out things or acknowledging things being pointed out to them
- Responding to facial expressions, such as returning a smile
Children with autism also tend to take comfort in routines and repetition, for example, they may like to rock or sway their bodies, flap their hands, or walk on their toes. They also prefer to keep the same routine throughout their day and a disruption in it can make them physically and emotionally agitated.
If your child is diagnosed with autism, you are not alone and you will get through this. Work closely with your doctor to gather information, resources, and find out about available therapy and treatments. This is the time to lean on your family and close friends for support to adjust to your family’s new needs and impending challenges. Together you will get through it, and with the help of support groups and charities, you will see that you are far from alone.