According to the Mayo clinic, it is estimated that three to six of every 1,000 children have autism, a brain disorder that causes many developmental problems. This disorder affects more boys than girls, and specialists have yet to pinpoint the cause.
Though there is no definitive "cure" for autism, more and more treatment therapies are becoming available. Experts say that the earlier autism is detected, the better chance a child has of countering the disorder.
Most children with autism develop normally the first few months, or even the first few years. Then they begin to show early signs of the disorder – signs that can be easily recognized, if you know what to look for.
There are three main components of autism: behavioral issues, language deficits, and poor social skills development. Each component comes with its own early signs of troubles.
- He may exhibit repetitive physical motion such as rocking, spinning, or head banging.
- Children with autism often depend on routine and rituals, such as touching a door knob several times before opening a door, or counting steps. A disruption of his routine is met with frustration and temper tantrums.
- He may lack the ability to pay attention to some things, but become fascinated by others.
- Though he may ignore most of the toys in the toy room, the tiniest detail, such a lever or knob on one toy may claim his attention for long periods of time.
- Children with autism seem to be unusually sensitive to sound, light and touch.
- Though all children acquire language at a different pace, children with autism begin to speak even later than most.
- A child exhibiting signs of autism may learn words or phrases, but then forget them and be unable to use them again.
- A singsong, or robotic voice often accompanies an autistic child's attempt to communicate, and he will often avoid looking you in the eyes as he speaks.
- Back and forth banter is difficult and often impossible for the autistic child. He seems to have trouble following a conversation, and coming up with an appropriate reply.
Poor Social Skills Development:
- Autistic children play mostly alone, ignoring other children in the room.
- He may seem as if he's having trouble hearing – he may ignore you when you speak to him, or not answer when his name is called.
- Children with autism are easily over-stimulated and usually do not enjoy cuddling or other physical affection.
- He may have no regard for the feelings of his peers, or be unable to show compassion or empathy
Parents often note that their child seems to "backslide" developmentally. They may originally start to gain new vocabulary and begin learning to play with peers and interact with others, but then, almost overnight, they forget new words they've learned, and become more and more withdrawn. What seemed like a normal dislike of loud noises suddenly seems over-sensitive.
If you feel that your child is exhibiting some of the above symptoms, consult your doctor for a diagnosis. Behavioral therapy and drugs are available, and in some cases show remarkable rates of success. Experts agree that early intervention is key.