Autism is being diagnosed at an increased rate in toddlers. Detecting it early is the key to effectively helping an autistic toddler communicate and act appropriately in social settings. There are signs of autism in toddlers that can help with early diagnosis.
What to Look For
The signs of autism in toddlers can be detected by using developmental milestones as a guide. While toddlers develop at different rates, a toddler with autism is often far behind a typical toddler in terms of development. Remember that just because a toddler displays the symptoms listed below does not mean that he or she has autism. A toddler must be diagnosed by professionals with a medical background and in depth knowledge of the disorder.
- Toddlers with autism prefer to be solitary. They display very little interest in their surroundings and do not communicate effectively with others. They typically dislike their parent or guardian's affection and may not respond or initiate contact.
- Autistic toddlers generally communicate when they really want something or if they get surprised.
- Young children who are autistic often will not use toys appropriately. They cannot use them in creative ways or may just prefer to stare at them. They also may line them up inappropriately or continuously spin a toy.
- Toddlers with autism may not respond to their name or act like they heard their name called.
- Autistic toddlers may be seen toe walking.
- Toddlers with autism may be hyperactive and have trouble sitting.
- Young children with the disorder may be unable to visually follow objects or imitate facial gestures.
Violent outbursts and tantrums may also be displayed by autistic toddlers.
- Toddlers with autism may want to eat only certain foods each day.
- Autistic toddlers may get upset if a typical routine is not followed.
- Any regression is a strong signal that the child has autism.
How You Can Help
It is essential that toddlers with autism begin treatment early so that they can learn to effectively communicate and interact socially. The signs of autism in toddlers can be used to diagnose a young child so that appropriate measures can used to help. There are a number of ways that you can help a toddler with autism.
- Schedule an appointment with a pediatrician to discuss any concerns you have regarding your child's development. It is important to discuss any developmental milestones that your child is behind in. Impairment in effective communication skills is particularly common in toddlers with autism.
- Schedule a number of screening tools that are designed to detect autism. These are simple "Yes and "No" type questions that are checked off on paper.
- If your pediatrician detects that your toddler has autism they can refer you to a specialist. These individuals will conduct a more extensive, in depth screening that is used to diagnose whether a toddler has autism. Often this includes a behavioral and physical assessment.
- According to Kidsource.com "There are three primary reasons for intervening early with an exceptional child: to enhance the child's development, to provide support and assistance to the family, and to maximize the child's and family's benefit to society."
- Toddlers with autism can make progress when effective treatment occurs.
- Work on communication and language skills with your child. If a toddler cannot talk, help them learn to sign or use PECS - Picture Exchange Communication System.
- Work with your child to teach him or her appropriate ways to play.
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WebMD.com: Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers
TeachMeToTalk.com: Questions and Answers About Autism in Toddlers and Preschoolers
Kidsource.com: What Is Early intervention?