Signs of Autism in Toddlers
Often, parents and caregivers ignore obvious signs of drawbacks in children. The thought of a child developing differently or even demonstrating traits considered unusual is frightening. Despite fear, it is important to acknowledge early signs of autism in toddlers. Since early identification can lead to better outcomes
The Early Signs
Four years ago, I was in that same position. My son had normal development until he was three years old, or so I thought. Then I stumbled upon a photo taken a week or so before his second birthday. This seemingly innocent photo compelled me to accept that my son demonstrated signs of autism before I was willing to acknowledge it. In the photo, a close friend of mine three-and-a-half-year old son tried desperately to gain my son’s attention. At no point did my son acknowledge the other toddler. Instead, he, uninterestedly, gauzed steadily at the floor. Sadly, this was one of many situations where he showed complete disinterest in other children.
In addition to his impaired ability to engage in social relationships with other children, there were other red flags that I ignored. For instance, he played differently with toys. He was obsessed with balls. He could spot a number or letter in any corner of a building. Also, he had strong food preferences and his speech was delayed. Most noticeable, he was a basketball genius. What was most odd though, was that he never crawled. In other words, he skipped crawling and walked at 8 months old. Albeit, he was a toe-walker.
Deciding on Diagnostic Assessment
Deep down I knew something wasn’t quite right with my son’s development. I shared my concerns with friends and family who reassured me that he was okay and only needed time. Even his pediatrician encouraged me of his normal development.
“Everything seems fine. Boys develop slower than girls. Let’s wait and see,” the pedicatrician said.
Their encouragements did little to alleviate my fears. Then it happened. I received a call from his preschool staff recommending he undergoes screening. Someone else noticed his peculiarity and that was enough to persuade me to take on the difficult challenge of diagnostic assessment. Without doubt, the thought of diagnostic assessment was frightening. I was certainly not ready to confirm what I already knew.
Autism Spectrum Diagnosis
My son was screened for autism spectrum disorder by a leading pediatric developmental psychologist in Washington D.C. The session was smooth and informative. I had a clearer understanding of early signs of autism in toddlers. Some early indicators for autism are impaired early language development, impaired social interactions, limited eye contact, unusual response to name and common gestures, etc. (Roberts, 2019).
Facing the truth about my son’s brain function was frightening. Although, not as frightening as not knowing. Evidence suggests that early diagnosis is beneficial, since it promotes early intervention. And early intervention may change the progression of development for children with autism. In other words, children with autism who receive early intervention have better outcomes.
Parents also impact early diagnosis since they are often the first to notice deviation in their children’ growth and development (Warren et a, 2011). Therefore, proper understanding of developmental milestones may be helpful.
Roberts, M. (2019). Seeing ASD signs? Speak up. ASHA Leader, 24(4), 46–55.
Warren, Z., McPheeters, M. L., Sathe, N., Foss-Feig, J. H., Glasser, A., & Veenstra-Vanderweele, J. (2011). A systematic review of early intensive intervention for autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 127, e1303–e1311.
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