How To Identify Signs Of Autism In Young Children

Early intervention is critical in addressing delays and it also ensures the child gets the support they need.

Cover image via Charlein Gracia/Unsplash

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As parents, one of the regular mantras we have is that we want to do the best for our children

From their health and nutrition, to their development, we are always on a quest to ensure we find the best for them. One of the important things to be aware of as a parent or caregiver is developmental red flags in young children. Early intervention is critical in addressing these delays and it also ensures the child gets the support they need.

Here are some developmental red flags to look out for:

1. Delayed speech and language development

By the age of two, most children should be able to speak simple phrases and follow simple directions. If your child is not meeting these milestones, it could be a sign of delayed speech and language development.

In a world that relies on gadgets for almost everything, we need to remember that young children should not be exposed to excessive amounts of screen time.

Tip from experts:
Limit screen time and ensure it is not during meals. To avoid meltdowns when it is time to turn off the iPad or TV, invest in a sand timer so children are able to 'see' time go by and understand the concept of it better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not more than half an hour of screen time per week for children two years or older and zero screen time for children younger than two years of age.

2. Inability to physically point and follow things that are pointed at

Young children should be able to point at things to tell you what they want or to show you something. A child who is unable to point may not point to a snack they want, but may pull you towards the area where the snack is. Likewise, you may point at a dog to show your child where a bark sound is coming from, but they may not be able to follow what you are pointing at.

3. Sensory issues

Some children may have sensory processing issues that can affect their ability to function in certain environments. Signs of sensory issues can include sensitivity to light, sound, or touch, as well as a preference for certain smells or textures when eating.

4. Inconsistently responding by name

By about a year old, children should be consistently looking at you when you call their name. Responding to their name demonstrates that the child is able to divide their attention from what they're doing when they hear a specific auditory cue.

5. Unusual or repetitive behaviours with their hands or other body parts

One of the red flags for autism is moving hands and the body in "unusual" ways. Some children will wave their fingers near their eyes, flap their hands, rock their body or walk on their toes.

What should you do if you see red flags in your child?

Bring this up with your paediatrician. Early intervention helps tremendously because whether your child ends up with a diagnosis or not, this intervention will help with any delays that are being noticed.

Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Early Intervention Programmes, and Individualised Educational Programmes can all be helpful.

Finally, as a parent, it is important to provide a supportive and nurturing environment for your child's development. This includes providing opportunities for social interaction, play, and exploration.

Encourage your child to try new things, ask questions, and express themselves in different ways. Remember, you are your child's best advocate and support system.

About the writer:

Jigna Doshi is the founder of Toddler Town International Preschool and Enso International Academy.

Toddler Town International Preschool is an inclusive preschool that supports children with developmental delays and special needs in an inclusive setting, with the help of qualified preschool teachers and SEN therapists. Enso International Academy is an exclusive primary school for children with special needs that focuses on academics and vocational skills.

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