April is Autism Awareness Month! Did you know 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder? Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, shares how to recognize signs of this developmental disorder and ways to get support.
How can a parent tell if their child might have autism?
Signs of autism generally present in the following two areas.
Social and communication difficulties:
- Suddenly withdrawn from or indifferent to social interaction
- Failure to respond to their name
- Avoiding eye contact with others
- Delayed speech, repeating phrases and giving unrelated answers to questions
- Speaking in flat robot-like or sing-song voice
Repetitive and characteristic behaviors:
- Repetitive movement or unusual behavior like flapping arms, rocking side to side or twirling
- Preoccupied with parts of an object or obsessively interested in a particular topic
- Emotional outbursts caused by changes to routine
What can parents do if they notice these signs?
It is important to see the child’s pediatrician to get the proper screenings and support from pediatric specialists. The type of treatment your child receives for autism spectrum disorders depends on their individual needs.
Some therapies include:
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) used in schools and clinics to help your child learn positive behaviors and reduce negative ones.
- Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR) used to support emotional and intellectual growth by helping them to learn skills around communication and emotions.
- Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH) breaks down information into small steps using visual cues such as picture cards to help your child learn everyday skills more easily.
- The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) uses symbols instead of picture cards to teach your child to ask questions and communicate through special symbols.
Each child with autism is unique and there are a variety of behavioral and communication therapies that can help their development. Talk to your child’s primary care doctor or a neurologist to help decide which therapy is right for your child.
Need diagnosis or support help for your child? Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s Pediatric Neurology Services offers a variety of services to help diagnose and manage developmental disorders like autism. Call 1-800-642-0101 or find a physician online.