Could your child be on the autism spectrum? 

Lately, you’ve noticed that your young child is acting differently: differently than they used to, or differently than their peers act. 

As a young infant, maybe your child interacted with you as you’d expect, but then they suddenly stopped as they got a little older. 

Perhaps your child tends to focus on solo activities, avoids eye contact, or doesn’t speak yet.

Could your child be on the autism spectrum? 

There are a lot of different thoughts and feelings happening when you think your child might have autism.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether your child is on the autism spectrum, if there’s a developmental delay, or if your child is just developing just a little later than usual.

When should you consider seeking out a diagnosis? 

Common Signs of Autism

The common signs of autism tend to fall into two categories: social commnication skills and repetitve behaviors.

Social communication skills.

Some social communication behaviors that may indicate autism:

  • Delayed speech: babbling when their peers are already forming words, or being completely nonverbal
  • Consistently avoiding eye contact
  • Hard to get their attention–they’re “in their own world”
  • Difficulty understanding non-verbal communication (For a toddler, this may mean that they don’t follow your finger when you’re pointing at something and also don’t point themselves. In an older child, this could mean that they don’t understand what a thumbs up or down means.)
  • A preference to be alone or to play alone
  • A tendency to say repeat phrases, i.e. something they heard before from another child, an adult or even from a movie or TV show

Repetitive behaviors, interests or activities.

Repetitive behaviors, interests or activities that may indicate autism:

  • Unusual body movements: often flapping of the arms, spinning, or body rocking
  • Repetitive actions like opening and closing doors, flipping light switches or assembling the same puzzle over and over again
  • Playing by lining up toys or categorizing toys by colors, dropping or spinning toys
  • An inability or unwillingness to pretend (become a character, imagine that an object is something else, etc) during play
  • Showing a strong and consistent interest in one specific toy or topic (For example, they might have a special interest in dolls, planes or another toy or topic, or they may watch one movie or one scene in a movie over and over again.) 
  • Exhibiting a rigid mindset in regard to daily schedule and routines, what they wear, the location and placement of objects in the home and at school (For example, something changing in your family’s daily routine may cause your child tohave a meltdown.)
  • Refusal to wear certain types of clothing or eat certain foods (Trying to force it usually results in a meltdown due to sensory sensitivities to certain textures, tastes, sounds, smells, temperatures, etc.)

These are just guidelines. Signs in individuals who go on to be diagnosed as on the autism spectrum vary from person to person and can also vary in severity. 

However, if your child has been exhibiting several of these signs, you may want to start the process of seeking out an autism diagnosis.

How to Seek Out a Diagnosis for Autism

A diagnosis, whether it confirms or denies your hunch, is usually a relief. You will know for sure whether your child is on the autism spectrum or not and will you finally know what’s going on and how you can help.

Many parents find seeking out a diagnosis for autism to be very daunting, but the process starts with a screening.

Screening for Autism

You can get an autism screening at your pediatrician’s office or through your state’s Early Intervention program. 

In fact, it’s recommended that all children get screenings at 18 and 24 months–or whenever a parent or doctor is concerned.

If you want to do your own screening first, you can complete this autism screener for toddlers from Autism Speaks and take the results to the doctor’s office with you, along with any questions or specific concerns you may have. An important distinction to keep in mind is that screenings don’t diagnose autism. What they do is flag behaviors that are often associated with autism. 

After screening, you can get a referral from your doctor for a specialist and will then be able to get a diagnostic evaluation. The wait for these types of evaluations can be very long. Some parents have reported waiting for months, or longer, to finally get a diagnosis for their child. 

What To Expect At Your Child’s Autism Evaluation

  • You’ll be asked to provide a medical and educational history of your child
  • Direct observation
  • The use of general behavioral assessment tools and autism assessment tools, for example, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) or a similar tool may be used 
  • A possible assessment of your child’s speech and language skills
  • A possible assessment of your child’s fine motor skills
  • A possible assessment of your child’s self-help skills
  • A possible assessment of your child’s sensitivity to textures, light, sounds, etc.
  • Cognitive assessments

An autism evaluation can take 3 to 4 hours or maybe longer and it’s possible that you will have to continue the evaluation on another day. Your child may be evaluated by a professional or two, or by a whole team of developmental pediatricians, psychologists, etc.

You Know Your Child Better Than Anyone

As a parent, you’re the best person to spot the early signs of autism. 

You spend the most time with your child and you know when something isn’t right.

If you’re seeing behavior that could be a symptom of autism, don’t hesitate to schedule a screening. 

It may be nothing, but if your child is on the spectrum, an early screening will help your child to get on the path to remediation that much faster!

After a diagnosis, many parents feel that their child has no hope of ever achieving independence or of getting married or forming other social relationships, but it’s important to stay positive.

What To Do While You’re Waiting for the Diagnosis

You want to help your child, and you want to do it now.

Waiting for weeks or months to find out what’s going on may feel impossible, but you can still help your child while you’re waiting.

If your child’s screening shows that they have developmental delays or learning difficulties, you don’t have to wait for an autism diagnosis to start getting help. 

RDI® is the Answer

Whether your child goes on to receive a diagnosis or not, RDI® can help with any developmental problems they may be experiencing.

If you do receive a diagnosis you will most likely be steered towards behavior therapy models such as ABA. These behavior models do nothing but whitewash the core deficits of autism and other neurological disorders and do not ultimately lead to quality of life and independence.

Start by educating yourself.

On the RDIconnect website, you can begin with typical development, when autism signs first appear, and what autism actually is.

In the RDI® online community, you can connect with other families who are all at different stages of their journey, some veteran parents and some that are just starting the journey like yourself. Here you will be able to connect with RDI® certified consultants whose job it is to help you learn to be the Guide for your child.

By starting off with RDI® you will be ready no matter the diagnosis outcome and you will know that an autism diagnosis is NOT the end of the world or even scary! But instead, armed with information and knowledge and the help of a community behind you, you can have hope for your child and your family.

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