Autism in Children

April 18, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Having a child means your world revolves around them. You put your own needs on hold for them. Document everything and share pictures and videos with loved ones. Play with them, feed them, bathe them. Sometimes, everything is going well, and you do your routine as usual. But, what happens if you’ve noticed something unusual? What if there’s something about your child’s behavior or development that seems a bit off? Could it be autism? What are the signs and symptoms? And, what can you do to help?

What is autism?

Autism is an umbrella term that refers to several conditions from the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Each of the disorders varies from person to person, and they can affect a person’s motor skills, speech, as well as social and communication skills. Depending on where the child is on the spectrum, autism could range from non-verbal and needing assistance doing the most basic needs to being high-functioning and living a relatively normal life.

Signs and symptoms of autism generally become apparent in early childhood — usually around the ages of two or three. Early intervention is crucial to provide you with the best strategies to raise your child.

Causes of Autism in Children

Autism is the result of abnormalities in the brain, which can be seen in brain scans of children with ASD. Although there are theories that these abnormalities may be caused by environmental factors, toxins, and/or genetics, there is no conclusive evidence.

Types of Autism Disorders in Children

There are several types of autism — also referred to as pervasive developmental disorders — all within the autism spectrum. While they are sometimes referred to by their individual names, since 2013, the American Psychiatric Association has grouped them all together into the single term autism spectrum disorder.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood disintegrative disorders consist of conditions where children start to develop normally, then begin losing motor skills and experience speech problems. Children with this type of autism also experience seizures.

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger syndrome (AS) is characterized by repetitive patterns of behavior, restricted interests, and difficulty with social interactions. People with AS are also more prone to experience anxiety and depression.

High-Functioning Autism

Children with high-functioning autism develop skills to live an independent life as adults. They can speak, read, write, and do activities of daily living — such as taking care of personal hygiene and working.

Signs of Autism in Children

Since there are so many types of autism, signs and symptoms vary greatly from one child to another. They are also categorized according to communication, behavioral, and/or social patterns. Some of the most common ones include:

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Headbanging
  • Motor control difficulties — such as with reflexes and coordinating movements
  • Repetitive movements — such as flapping their hands, jumping, or twirling
  • Trouble controlling emotions
  • Emotional breakdowns

Communication Signs and Symptoms

  • Speech delays
  • Repetitive language
  • Inability to engage in verbal communication
  • Repeating questions instead of answering them
  • Difficulty communicating their needs
  • Having a flat voice

Social Signs and Symptoms

  • Inability to empathize
  • Strong dislike to physical contact
  • Lack of interest in sharing activities with others
  • Inability to develop relationships with peers
  • Lack of expressing emotions

Children with ASD also tend to prefer rigid routines — such as lining their toys up in a specific order, doing daily activities in the same order every single day, or watching their favorite movies and/or going on their favorite theme park ride several times in a row. They may also have trouble understanding the concept of time.

Diagnosing Autism in Children

During regular pediatric checkups, your child’s doctor will verify whether your child is developing normally or whether they are experiencing delays. This includes observing the child during social interactions, their ability to communicate, and social and behavioral cues. If there are signs of ASD, the pediatrician will refer the child to a specialist — such as a pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician.

Autism Treatment Options

Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the disorder your child is experiencing. They could include:

  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Educational therapy
  • Medications

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids are here to help.

Our home care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent caregivers to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.