What is Autism?

It usually starts with a question in the back of a parent’s mind: “Why isn’t my child talking?” “Why isn’t my child interested in toys that other kids are into?” “Why is my child always crying?”

With a little of luck, someone approaches and suggests to look into “autism”.

By the textbook definition, it is “a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors.” (American Psychiatric Association, “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?“)

APA categorizes the characteristics of autism as the following:

  • Social interaction and communication problem
  • Difficulty relating to people, things and events
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests or activities

CDC lists down some “possible red flags” (CDC, Signs & Symptoms) to help identifying children with autism:

  • Not respond to their name by 12 months of age
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

Now, your child seems to have some of the red flags: what do you do now?

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