Understanding the Signs of Autism (Autism Awareness Month)

If your child’s development is not progressing as expected, he or she might have a developmental delay. April is Autism Awareness Month, and with 1 in 59 children being identified as having autism spectrum disorder, autism is a commonly diagnosed developmental disorder.

Autism expert and board-certified pediatrician Rainilda Valencia, MD, of Valencia Pediatrics, offers expert diagnostic screenings for young and older children, as well as customized care and treatment plans for children diagnosed with autism. Keep reading to understand what symptoms of autism to look for in your child and what to expect after diagnosis.

Understanding autism

Autism is a complex developmental disability caused by differences in your child’s brain. The ways and extent it impacts children vary from mild to severe. Most commonly, autism impacts the way these children communicate, learn, and interact with the world.

Symptoms of autism

While symptoms of autism vary in type and severity, at least some of these symptoms usually start to appear in early childhood. If your child displays these symptoms, make an appointment at Valencia Pediatrics for an autism screening.

Speech and language delays

Some children with autism exhibit delays in speech and language or lose language abilities between 12-18 months after initially acquiring language skills. Other children meet developmental speech milestones but have difficulties with language pragmatics, such as speaking in a flat tone of voice, having difficulty forming sentences, or repeating the same phrases or words.

Difficulty with social skills

Children with autism usually show some type of social skills challenges or delays. Some children show little to no interest in socializing, while others want to socialize and make friends but have a hard time doing so.

Your child might have difficulty making eye contact, display flat facial expressions and affect, and have more difficulty listening to others. Some children prefer playing alone and have trouble expressing their feelings and understanding the feelings of others.

Sensory sensitivity

A child who has autism often displays high levels of sensitivity to smells, sights, tastes, and sounds that don’t usually disrupt others. They might also dislike being physically touched, held, or cuddled.

Delayed or repetitive movement

Your child with autism might be delayed in developing gross or fine motor skills. Other times, these children display repetitive movements, such as rocking, arm flapping, or repeatedly spinning a toy car’s wheels.

Intense, narrow interests

In some instances, children with autism have interests that are more unusual or narrow than other children. The interests can preoccupy these children at the expense of developing other hobbies.

What to do if you think your child could have autism

Early intervention is critical for children with autism, so if you suspect your child might have autism, schedule an evaluation as soon as possible. Dr. Valencia, assisted by Micaela Marin-Tucker, PA-C, and Megan Reynolds, C-PNP, does in-office screenings for autism in children as young as nine months. 

After an autism diagnosis, Dr. Valencia works with you and your child to develop an individualized treatment plan to assist your child with autism, as well as any secondary or comorbid medical or mental health needs. Examples of treatment for autism include speech therapy, relationship therapy, and behavioral therapy.

Dr. Valencia and her welcoming team at Valencia Pediatrics, located in Victorville, California, create a nurturing, supportive environment, welcoming to children with special needs as well as typically developing children. To schedule an autism screening or get additional support for a child diagnosed with autism, contact us today to make an appointment.

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