Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term used for a category of neurodevelopmental disorders.
A child with ASD may start showing slight symptoms from a very tender age e.g. if a child doesn't smile, doesn't have a warm expression, doesn't grasp objects, does not babble, shows no feelings for parents, eye contact is missing, etc.
It is very important for parents to keep a track of their baby's milestones. In case they feel something is not right, it is very important to consult a specialist at the earliest.
Listed below are some major signs of autism that new parents should observe in their child. These signs are, to some extent, indicative that a child may be having some neurodevelopmental issues. Once any of these signs come in parents' observations, they should immediately consult a specialist and accordingly start early intervention.
Speech delay & no name response - Speech delays are very common among children with autism. Children on the autism spectrum tend to fail or respond slowly to their name or any verbal attempt to gain their attention. Also, such children either fail or are quite slow in developing gestures like pointing and showing things to others. Autism and speech delay often go hand in hand. If a child doesn't develop age appropriate speech, then it's a matter of concern and needs diagnosis & intervention.
Poor eye contact - Children with autism are usually less responsive or get less engaged with other people, including lack of eye contact. Among neurotypical children, eye contact increases steadily with age. But for children with autism, eye contact starts declining with age. Lack of eye contact in children is a red flag for autism.
Hyperactivity - Hyperactivity is one of the most prevalent symptoms in diagnosis of autism. A hyperactive child is constantly in motion, runs or climbs, usually with no apparent goal except motion. The child faces difficulty in remaining seated, fidgets with hands or squirms when seated, with excessive fidgeting.
No finger pointing - Every child's development varies, however, typically pointing develops between 10 and 15 months of age. If your baby is not able to point the finger by 18 months, it's a red flag . However, there are ways to teach the skill of pointing fingers which can be a turning point to success.
Toe walking - Many children with autism cannot easily flex their ankles completely causing them to walk on toes. Toe walking has also been linked to autism spectrum disorder.
Food aversion/ eating issues - Children with autism are usually picky eaters and eat only a limited selection of food. Some of them might eat only pureed food and take a very long time to adapt to normal food habits. Food aversion is an indication that the child is sensitive to certain texture, temperature or smell of foods.
Ignoring danger - Children on the autism spectrum are usually hyperactive and tend to ignore or underestimate common dangers.
If parents are able to identify that the child is on the spectrum and start early intervention, it will be very helpful in overcoming or managing the majority of the issues at an early age.
Shivani is a practicing Chartered Accountant and an Autism Activist. She is passionately working towards creating sensitivity in society for people on the autism spectrum. She is a core member of "Autism Parents Forum" which is a group of motivated individuals who have taken the responsibility of creating autism awareness in our society.