What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism is a developmental disorder that usually appears in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.

The word “autism” strikes fear in the hearts of many parents. But we now know that early treatment is very effective in helping children cope with their learning differences. It also brings professionals alongside as parents learn to understand their child’s difficulties and about the treatments that will help their child grow and learn.

As a parent of a toddler, you will want to know the developmental milestones your child should be achieving (insert link over) and also the early warning signs of autism. The following “red flags” may show that your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder.

  • Doesn’t make eye contact (children typically start looking into people’s eyes at two months of age)
  • Doesn’t smile or show joyful expressions by six months
  • Doesn’t respond to his name by six months
  • Doesn’t engage in back-and-forth sound or face play by nine months; does not seem to want to engage people with smiles or eye contact at any age
  • Doesn’t point to tell you what she wants by 12 months
  • Doesn’t follow a point to something that you see
  • Is not using words by 16 months
  • Is not self-initiating two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Is imitating speech or “parroting” speech at two years of age, but is not initiating it on his own
  • Is losing babbling or speech or social skills at any age
  • Is demonstrating repetitive or unusual behaviors
  • Repetitive or unusual play patterns

If your child exhibits several of these, you can do a quick screening yourself at home using a standardized checklist that can tell you whether your child is at risk and needs to be evaluated further. This screening tool can be found here: www.m-chat.org.

In addition, you may want to get help from pediatric therapists right away so your child can start progressing in these areas.

A pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist can help with:

  • Increasing your child’s ability to communicate with you and others using gestures, words, and pictures
  • Encouraging engagement with others
  • Helping your child learn to play and enjoy interacting with others

A pediatric Occupational Therapist can help your child:

  • Learn to play with toys and people
  • Learn to process all the sensations that might seem overwhelming to him
  • Learn to coordinate eyes, hands, and body for play and learning
  • Learn self-help and self-care skills

A pediatric Physical Therapist can help your child:

  • Improve posture
  • Develop age-appropriate gross motor skills, like jumping, climbing stairs safely, and running
  • Address misalignments, such as foot and ankle misalignment, that may prohibit correct walking or running patterns
  • Develop a home fitness program

At CTS, we can evaluate your child to see whether therapy will be beneficial for him or her. We can help you navigate these rough waters. We don’t diagnose autism – you’ll need a developmental pediatrician and an evaluation team to do that – but we can help you put a treatment plan in place. If you have any questions, please call CTS at 630-444-0077 to speak to a therapist or a client support specialist.