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Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Children

Updated on August 2, 2014
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Benny is both a professional tutor and writer. He likes writing on subjects that touch on human heart.

Autism is a developmental disorder condition which belongs to a group of developmental disabilities called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Web Dictionary defines autism as “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.”

Autism as defined by is “psychiatry, a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment: now considered one of the autism spectrum disorders.”

SCA baby brand Drypers supporting The National Autism Society of Malaysia
SCA baby brand Drypers supporting The National Autism Society of Malaysia | Source

Causes of Autism

The exact cause of autism is not yet known, however, studies are still underway to determine what might be the main cause of autism.

As researchers have not yet identified the cause of autism, on the other hand, they have been able to identify factors that have contributed to this disorder.

Risk Factors

The following are the factors thought by researcher to increase the risk of developing ASD:

Genetic Factors

Studies have strongly indicated that some people are more vulnerable to developing this condition as they inherit it from their parents. Researchers are trying to find which genes may be responsible for contributing to this increased susceptibility.

There are several cases which have shown ASD has tended to run in families. It is common to find both identical twins developing ASD.

As there are no specific genes linked to ASD that have been able to be identified, still there are no tests that can screen for ASD genes.

Lance Neilson
Lance Neilson | Source

Psychological Factors

Researchers who base their findings on the fact psychological factors also contribute to the possibility of developing ASD base on the theory known as ‘Theory of Mind’ (TOM).

This is clearly explained by HNS which states, “This is a person’s ability to understand other people’s mental states, recognizing that each person they meet has their own set of intentions, beliefs, emotions, likes and dislikes. To put it simply, it’s seeing the world through another person’s eyes.

Researchers believe children without ASD have a full understanding of the Theory of Mind when they reach the age of four. However, children without ASD either have limited or no understanding at all of the Theory of Mind.

Environmental Factors

Researchers believe that a person is born with vulnerability to ASD; however the condition will develop only if that person is opposed to a specific environmental trigger.

The environmental factors that increase the vulnerability of developing ASD include: environmental toxins, premature birth, exposure to certain medications and alcohol.

NHS notes “No conclusive evidence has been found linking pollution or maternal infections in pregnancy with an increased risk of ASD.”

Neurological Factors

Researchers believe neurological factors also play a role in a person developing ASD. This is whereby the connection between parts of brains (e.g. cerebral cortex) and the limbic system may have become knotted or as put by NHS, “over connected.”

The result of scramble between parts of brain and limbic system leads to a person with ASD suddenly experiencing an emotional response either to an object or event that is unimportant. Scientists believe this may be the reason why people with ASD love routines. This set of patterns they have developed act as a way of not provoking an extreme emotional response.

This also may be the reason why children with ASD are usually interested in topics which most children find boring or disinterested.

Autism Myth #5
Autism Myth #5 | Source

Warning Signs

Parents are in a position to note warning signs of autism in their children as they are conversant with their children's behaviors.

Children can develop the condition of autism as early as eighteen months. As noted by HelpGuide, "The younger your child, the greater the impact of treatment on symptoms of autism. But no matter your child's age, don't lose hope. Treatment can reduce the disorder's effects and help your child learn, grow, and thrive."

The early signs of ASD can be detected usually in the first two years. Some children may show many of these signs or a few of them.

  • The child does not point to or wave by the age of 12 months.
  • The child does not use or maintain eye contact
  • When called, the child does not constantly respond to her name.
  • Unless smiled at or tickled, the child cannot smile.
  • The child does not use gestures, for example, waving. It is unless she imitates it from someone waving or is told so.
  • The child by the age of 12 is not cooing or babbling.
  • The child has no interest for other children.
  • By the age of 16 months the child is not uttering single words.
  • When she babbles or coos it does not appear or sound she is having conversation with you.
  • If you use simple one-step instructions, she does not understand what you mean, for example, "Show me the cat."
  • She imitates what others say or hear from television, for example, "Bring me soda to drink." She might repeat the words, "Soda to drink."

Characteristics of Children Exhibiting Autism Disorder

Normally, the symptoms of autism appear before the child is 3 years-old and continue throughout life. The symptoms vary from one child to another and can be severe or mild. This is the reason why autism is among the developmental disorders called autism spectrum disorders. The word 'spectrum' signifies each child is affected by this condition differently.

Children with autism or ASD may manifest many of these characteristics of symptoms while a few manifests some.

  • The repeat body movements or certain behavior patterns such as head banging and spinning.
  • They prefer to play alone.
  • The have difficulty making friends.
  • They find it hard to use non-verbal communications, example, facial expressions and gestures.
  • They find it hard to interact socially. Also, relating to people.
  • They maintain little or there is no eye contact at all.
  • They resist to be held or touched by somebody.
  • They lack personal space when in a conversation. They tend to get too close when talking to someone.
  • During social interactions they respond but do not initiate conversations.
  • They do not share observations or experiences with others.
  • When it comes to jokes or use of figure of speech, they find it difficult to understand.
  • They find it hard to read facial expressions and body language.
  • When it comes to answering questions about themselves, they evade answering such questions.
  • Their comments during conversation has no connection to what is being talked.
  • They prefer to be alone or over-friendly.
  • They do not understand the feelings of others.
  • They have a problem maintaining friendships.
  • They prefer company of younger or older people than their peers.

In conclusion: "Autism literally means “aloneness,” or living in one’s own world. In severe cases, young children may not interact with others, or treat people as objects. In milder cases it involves difficulty understanding and relating to others, and difficulty understanding other people’s perspectives and emotions.

Left untreated, many autistic children will not develop effective social skills and may not learn to talk or behave appropriately. Very few individuals recover completely from autism without any intervention. The good news is that there are a wide variety of treatment options which can be very helpful. Some treatments may lead to great improvement, whereas other treatments may have little or no effect. No treatment helps everyone."(Autism Research Institute)

Additional Information

The following are reliable links to everything you need to learn about autism including various treatments. (Autism Research Institute) (AUTISM SPEAKS) (AUTISM SOCIETY) (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) (NHS) (HELPGUIDE)


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    • Ben716 profile image

      Alianess Benny Njuguna 5 months ago from Kenya

      Hi Marcia. It has taken long to reply. How is your son doing so far?

    • profile image

      mours sshields 3 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      Very informative! I have a 19-year-old son with autism.

      Marcia Ours

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