I lost count of how many people I know who happen to be, have a child, a sibling, a relative or a friend who is Autistic. It is an extremely common issue nowadays. I won't pretend that I understand what Autism is all about - because I don't. No autistic person is the same as the next, and the Autism Spectrum includes so many different disorders that you would have to be a professional who studied intensively about the topic to even begin to comprehend it all.
What I do know though is that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the better chances s/he has of getting the assistance s/he needs to have as average a life as possible. The best people to pick up signals that a child might be autistic are those who spend a lot of time regularly with him/her such as yourself, and anyone who might babysit your child regularly.
With this in mind, I spoke to a good friend of mine who is way more knowledgeable about the topic due to it affecting her sibling. She has provided me with some awesome links to check out, which I'll share with you:
A good site for basic info: http://www.autismspeaks.org/
A good website for researchy stuff http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/research/
A good website especially for books http://fhautism.com/
Autistic individuals can range from a variety of Functional levels to a vast variety of limited functionality or non-functionality. I firmly believe that one should know what sort of tell-tale signs to look out for, as certain things may easily be overlooked as just being "quirks", so to speak.
Whilst discussing this with my friend, she told me that at first, her mother thought that her sibling was deaf as loud noises - such as a door slamming - never startled her.Back in the day, this non-reaction meant nothing. Nowadays, it is one of the most common tell-tale signs.
I will attempt to create a list of signs one should look out for - however please keep in mind that I'm no specialist, and most likely neither are you - so if you recognise some of these signs in anyone you might know, refer to a pro who will be able to issue a diagnosis.
A child may display signs of Autism as early as 1 year of age. In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators,” also known as “red flags,” which indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the “red flags” that your child should be screened to ensure that s/he is on the right developmental path. If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your paediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
Besides from the tell-tale signs listed above, there are also other signs one can look out for.
- Limited social interaction [where the child may appear to be "a loner"]
- A tendency of repetitive behaviour such as an extreme fondness of stacking or repetitive motions [not far off from what OCD might look like]
- A very keen interest shown only in a limited amount of topics
- No standard reactions to loud noises
One of my closest friends was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome - which is one kind of Autism. Had he not told me himself about the diagnosis, I would have never guessed it myself. He is a fully-functional adult with what I would call a few "quirks" that make him so awesome. I myself always having been somewhat anti-social would have thought nothing of this trait in him and just assumed he too doesn't like being around people most of the time. In truth, he likes being around people but cannot cope with big groups - so as much as he likes to attend a good concert, the crowd might easily become overwhelming to him and he'd have to return back home.
This is pretty much the reason why I feel it is extremely important to educate oneself. Though certain disorders that make up the Autism Spectrum allow the individual to be functional within modern day society, albeit with some minor limitations, it will still be tough to establish a relationship where there is mutual understanding between a Parent and a Child if the disorder goes by undiagnosed. The parent[s] might easily think their child is just being awkward - a "problem child", so to speak - whereas in truth, the child would just be a regular Autistic child, behaving within his norm's parameters.
A few days ago, an article about one of the most amazing Autistic children ever reappeared on Facebook - I had already come across it over a year ago. Here is a link - read it, watch