Having worries and concerns about a child is something which all parents go through regularly. Are they happy? Are they healthy? Are they developing in line with other children of their age?
The problems begin when worries turn into fears and sometimes, the fears may be held with good reason. Trusting your instinct is a healthy way to approach worries about your child which don’t seem to go away.
With Autism hitting the headlines so often, many more parents find themselves in a position where they understand far more about a previously little understood condition.
Autism is on the rise…or as some people put it, diagnosis of Autism is on the rise. Because more and more people are aware of the symptoms of Autism, more and more parents and carers are seeking advice about their child’s development.
So…what is “normal” and what constitutes a red flag for Autism? Below is a checklist of common concerns which parents often notice regarding their child’s behaviour and development and which may sometimes warrant further investigation by a professional.
My child does not speak.
My child cannot point.
My child does not indulge in pretend or imaginative play.
My child has some odd gestures and habits.
My child echoes everything I say.
All of the above can at times be a normal phase for a neurologically typical child…in other words children who do not have Autism can indulge in the above at some point in their childhood with no cause for concern.
The issues begin to become more worrisome when the child does not grow out of the phases or when the habits or behaviour become disruptive.
If your child is over eighteen months old and has no words, then it is wise to seek the advice of a GP, a Health Visitor or a Pediatrician. Language delays can be one of the first signs of Autism or they can simply be a hiccup in the development of a neurologically typical child who will go on to develop just like his or her peers.
Pointing has been pinpointed as a developmental milestone in children who are developing at the correct pace. Shared pointing is what you need to look out for; a child who points at an object to draw your attention to it…perhaps looking back at you to see if you are taking notice, is a child who is acting appropriately.
If your child has reached the age of 18 months and has no pointing, it may simply be that they just haven’t “got there yet” or that there’s a problem…again, seek the advice of a professional.
Pretend or imaginative play is another important developmental phase and one which most children will reach with no problems. Pretend play can include feeding a doll or a bear with imaginary food, making a box into a boat or a bucket into a hat. If your child shows no desire to indulge in this kind of play by the age of 2 years, you would be wise to seek an appointment with your doctor or health care worker.
Habitual and “odd” gestures can be a red flag for Autism. Some examples of these include finger wiggling, arm flapping and spinning for long periods of time. All children indulge in curious movements at times but any which stand out as too regular in occurrence need to be investigated.
A child who echoes what is said to them or what they hear on television can be a worry; known as “Echolalia” the condition can include “immediate” and “delayed” echolalia and this is sometimes a sign that a child is on the Autistic Spectrum.
While this time can be very worrying and upsetting for parents it is best to seek help and advice as soon as possible in order that your child may access intervention and treatment in the form of therapies which can help them to develop.
Early intervention is very important when it comes to helping children to get the skills which they need to lead happy and fulfilled lives. While this can be a worrying time, it can also be a wonderful one in which you learn more about your child and gain the satisfaction of becoming their advocate.