Jul 2 2021

Child Development Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder presents its symptoms in a wide range of ways, thus why it’s called a spectrum disorder. Being able to recognize signs of ASD in a child’s development may help you catch the disorder early which is beneficial to your child. Early detection and resultant early intervention will benefit your child in so many ways.

Category: ABA Therapy
Posted by: Alejandro Hernandez BCBA

Autism Spectrum Disorder presents its symptoms in a wide range of ways, thus why it’s called a spectrum disorder. Being able to recognize signs of ASD in a child’s development may help you catch the disorder early which is beneficial to your child. Early detection and resultant early intervention will benefit your child in so many ways.

Creating a treatment plan of services and therapies early on in a child’s life will allow them to thrive in all areas as they grow. Specifically, the intervention of Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy (ABA Therapy), an individualized therapy, can work wonders for a child with Autism. Although warning signs can vary widely among children, there are some telltale markers, consistent among most children with ASD, that it helps to be aware of. Below we’ll take a look at the signs in childhood development that may be indicative of ASD, as well as how ABA can be significantly helpful to improving your child’s development and functionality. .

Common Signs of ASD

Common warning signs of ASD in children deal with communication, social engagement, behavioral flexibility, and regression in any of these areas.

Children with ASD often have difficulty communicating and verbalizing their messages. If you notice that your infant child is not developing verbal communication commensurate with age-appropriate milestones, it may be a sign of ASD. Age-level communicative milestones to look out for are as follows: eye-contact and smiling by 6 months, exchange of sounds and expressions by 9 months, little to no babbling, gesturing, or responding to his/her name by 12 months, few or no words by 16 months, and few or no phrases by 24 months.

Social Engagement
Monitoring your child’s social development and engagement may also provide warning signs of ASD. Impaired social skills typically become more obvious as children get older. Some signs of social impairment include a disinterest in other people, an inability to connect with other children, an aversion to physical touch, a detachment from group games or creative play, difficulty understanding/expressing feelings, unresponsive when spoken to, and a disinterest in sharing his/her interests and achievements.

Behavioral Flexibility
Watching for your child’s behavioral indicators can also help identify ASD. Signs of inflexibility concerning routine and behavior are cause for concern. The following inflexible behaviors may be indicative of ASD: strict adherence to a known schedule or routine, difficulty adapting to changes in routine or environment, strong attachment to toys or objects, preoccupation with narrowly focused topics, long periods of focus on moving objects (like a ceiling fan), and repetitive actions or movements.

Speech Development
If you think your child may have ASD, it could help to monitor his/her speech development and difficulties. Common warning signs of ASD concerning speech development include atypical inflection, tone, rhythm, or pitch, repetition of words/phrases, repeats questions instead of answering, poor grammar, refers to himself/herself in the third person, trouble communicating needs/desires, inability to follow simple instructions, and difficulty recognizing humor and sarcasm (takes too literally).

Repetitive Behaviors
The presentation of atypical repetitive behaviors may also be indicative of ASD. Some common repetitive behaviors may include rocking back and forth, flapping hands, spinning, tapping, scratching, staring, and headbanging. Although these behaviors are a common presentation of repetitive behaviors, certainly any repetitive behavior can be a warning sign of ASD.

Truly, any sign of regression in a child’s development is a sign of ASD. If your child has begun developing according to typical developmental milestones surrounding communication, speech, and behavior, but then begins regressing, this could be concerning. If, for instance, your child has begun developing speech and language, but then begins to lose the ability to verbally communicate, this is a regression that is a warning sign of ASD. You would want to reach out to the child’s pediatrician at this point.

What to do if you notice developmental warning signs of ASD in your child:
If you’ve begun to notice any of these signs in your child, it may be time to have him/her evaluated. If you receive the distressing news that your child has been diagnosed with ASD, do not despair. Although there is disagreement in the medical world about what causes ASD, there is much agreement on best practices for remediating some of its many symptoms.

Specifically, ABA Therapy is an understanding of how behavior works and using that information to remediate particular behaviors, thereby increasing useful behaviors and decreasing harmful behaviors. Particularly, ABA Therapy focuses on improving language acquisition, improving attention and focus, and reducing harmful behaviors.

ABA Therapy is a flexible treatment plan that works by adapting to an individual’s needs, with therapies that are then applied at home, in school, and within the community. The focus of ABA Therapy is to help children with ASD develop life skills. In a home setting, this may mean individual and one-to-one therapy, while in school or communities, therapy may be in a group setting. By applying therapy exercises in a consistent way across all facets of a child’s life, vast improvement can occur. Some of the ways that ABA Therapy exercises manifest is through positive reinforcement and analysis and the imposition of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences.

The important point to understand about ABA is that it is an individualized approach, so no two children with ASD receive the same program. Also, it is an ever-evolving approach. Simply, implementation of ABA Therapy requires analysis, planning, goal-setting, measuring outcomes, and constant reevaluation and tweaking.

The ABA approach is supported by medical research. ABA Therapy is supported by the Surgeon General and is noted as an evidence-based best practice treatment. With awareness and therapies like ABA readily available across the country, an ASD diagnosis is no longer a reason for despair. Instead, ABA gives families a reason to hope that their child’s development and functionality can improve beyond their current circumstances.

If you have concerns about your child’s development and worry they may be exhibiting signs of ASD, we suggest discussing these concerns with your pediatrician. Certainly, they can lead you in the right direction of testing your child and finding ABA Therapy providers.


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