Autism and Asberger’s syndrome are both in the spotlight these days. Diagnoses of these related disorders are rampantly increasing and leaving experts – as well as the public – wondering how much these numbers reflect environmental causes and/or whether it’s due to a greater awareness and better diagnostic assessments.

Either way, families with children – or parents – diagnosed with either of these disorders can feel increasingly helpless. It can seem as if your entire life is turned upside down when trying to meet a single individual’s needs. If you suspect your child or partner may be autistic, or may show up somewhere along the Autism Spectrum, take a deep breath and know that it will all be okay.

While your immediate future may not look or feel like you originally thought it would, information, education, assistance, and support is abundant – you just need to know where to reach.

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

If your child is a whiz at math, obsessed with a particular galaxy, has trouble connecting with others, and/or isn’t a fan of touch, it does not mean he or she is autistic. It might just mean you have a completely “normal” kid who isn’t like the median idea of what a normal kid his/her age is like.

On the other hand, these traits are worth looking into, if, and only if, they’re causing serious disruptions in family, school, and/or social realms.

The most obvious signs or symptoms of ASD usually arise between a child’s second- and third-year of life. If your gut instinct says, “something doesn’t seem right here,” and their symptoms correlate with the ones listed below, have your child screened sooner rather than later. Early intervention can play a huge role in improving a child’s outcomes.

Between six months and nine months of age, children with ASD don’t:

  • Smile or emote warm expressions towards other people.
  • Use gestures or obvious body language to communicate with others.
  • Babble like other babies and, by 24 months, don’t speak at all or even put together meaningful two-word phrases.
  • Make eye contact. If they do, it’s notably limited.

After the 24-month period, individuals with autism or Asberger’s:

  • Typically avoid eye contact.
  • Prefer being alone to being with others, including immediate family members or grandparents.
  • Are relatively non-verbal and have significant language development issues.
  • Have difficulty relating to or caring about other people’s feelings.
  • Get dramatically upset by even minor changes in routines or patterns.
  • Repeats words and phrases over and over (echolalia).
  • Perform repetitive behaviors, like rocking, flapping, or spinning.
  • Have very few interests but obsess on the ones they have.
  • Are extremely sensitive and/or reactionary to specific sights, sounds, touch, tastes, colors, or even people.

If your child has some of the above symptoms, but enjoys being with people, is sympathetic to others feelings, enjoys snuggling from time to time with parents, siblings, and other close family members, and/or is verbal, ASD is probably not the issue. In that case, we recommend exploring information about highly sensitive children and intense children, which is not a disorder but requires different parenting approaches.

Support for Those Living With an Autistic Family Member

Here are things to keep in mind if your child has ASD.

Screening is Essential

Your child needs to be screened because the official ASD diagnosis is the pre-cursor for access to all the amazing support services that are ready to provide assistance for your child, yourself, and other family members.

Help is On the Way

Do reach out to access the services available, many of which work to address your family’s financial needs and constraints. Start by visiting the Family Support Tools Kit from autismspeaks.org. A single conversation at the park, a Google search or chat with your physician will also provide access or referrals to your local autism support network. You are not alone, your child is not alone, and your search will yield valuable resources from which your family can lift itself up and out into a brighter, more functional future.