Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a range of developmental conditions that impair a child’s social behavior, communication skills, and intellectual capabilities. Usually, ASD begins very early on, and most cases become apparent within the first five years. According to WHO, one in every 160 children suffers from this stark disorder — however, there’s little to no awareness surrounding it. Most people assume that children will ‘grow out’ of ASD, which is far from true. Therefore, it is important for parents of infants and toddlers to understand the disorder better and watch out for signs that will enable early detection. 

If you are a new parent or you suspect some issues with your toddler, we’ve put together a guide that’ll help you navigate the situation effectively. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Understand the disorder well 

ASD is one of the most widely misunderstood disorders — thanks to the many myths associated with it. Most people pin poor parenting as the culprit but according to the latest research, ASD is caused due to a variety of factors, ranging from environmental to genetic. 

If you are a parent of a child showing symptoms of ASD, read as much about the disorder as you can, get your doubts addressed with a doctor, and stay up to date on the latest developments. And once you’ve empowered yourself with information, you’ll see how quickly fear and confusion clear up. 

  • Keep an eye out for development delays 

Regularly monitor how your child is doing. See if he/she is able to hit the developmental milestones — socially, emotionally, and cognitively. If you suspect/observe any delays or disparities, don’t panic as not all developmental delays indicate ASD. Just keep a tab on how your child is performing consistently and inform your doctor about the same. 

Every child is different and so is their growth trajectory. However, there are a few developmental milestones that we have put together for your reference. Please note that these are merely indicators and they can differ from child to child. 

  • Six months 

Joyful expressions 

  • Nine months 

Sounds and facial expressions 

  • Twelve months 

Babbling, response to name-calling, and other gestures such as waving, pointing, and reaching 

  • Sixteen months 

Speech skills (using words) 

  • Twenty-four months

Advanced speech skills (constructing small phrases)

Do observe if your child is experiencing any regression in developmental skills. Some children may lose communication skills between 12-24 months after developing them. 

If your child is older than twenty-four months, look out for the symptoms below: 

  • Little to no interest in social interactions and the world around them 

  • Few or no friends 

  • Dislike towards any forms of affection

  • Trouble with speech and understanding feelings 

  • Atypical tone of voice and body posture 

  • Repetition of same words 

  • Incorrect usage of language  

  • No eye contact 

  • Unusual attachment to toys or other objects 

  • Narrowed/limited interests 

  • Difficulty in adapting to changes (in the immediate environment as well as life in general) 

  • Get your child screened 

Most parents are advised to take the ‘wait-and-watch’ approach, however, it may not always be a good idea. When ASD is detected early, the chances of improvement are higher. That’s why make sure to get your child tested if you strongly feel that something is wrong. Visit a doctor immediately and discuss the issue at length for a better perspective. You could take a second opinion just to be doubly sure. 

  • Intervene at an early stage 

Once you receive the test results, start the treatment for autism immediately.  Often, treatment for autism involves a combination of medication and rehabilitation programs such as Occupation Therapy, Speech Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Play  Therapy, and more. Consult with your neurologist and a developmental specialist, as these experts will be able to guide you better and develop a tailor-made treatment plan based on your child’s unique needs.

Now that we have given you a starting point to help your child, go ahead and share the article to help other parents out. Together, we can put an end to the taboo and secure a healthy future for our children.