What to do when you discover that your child has autism

A mother to an autistic son tells you how to spot the early signs of autism in your child and what to do about it

Man with an autism child

When my son, Jeremy [now 26] was a baby, I worried because he would sit rather floppily, content to play with the same toy in the same spot for hours, enabling me to get a lot of my pre-production work done. When I shared my fears with family and friends, they inevitably replied, “So he takes after his dad! Not everyone has to be as energetic as you. He’s a calm baby. Just be happy you can get your work done.” The paediatrician was not very supportive of my concerns, so I invited him to my son’s first birthday party. Seeing the contrast between my son and a room full of healthy babies, he was forced to face the facts that some tests might be in order.

There is so much more known about autism now than when my son was a baby. If you suspect your baby or child has autism, it is important to get a diagnosis because the earlier your child receives help, the better your child’s prognosis will be. Parents who are not familiar with autism may wonder, “What is autism, and what does it look like? How do I know if my child has autism?” These are good questions to ask.

Autism spectrum disorder [ASD] is considered to be a neurodevelopmental disability, meaning that it affects the functioning of the brain. It is characterised by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

Autism typically appears during the first three years of life and is thought to be four times more prevalent in males than females. Autism is called a spectrum disorder because there are vast differences in how individuals are impacted—from severely impacted to those on the more able end.

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A version of this article was first published in the December 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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