Loss of language and social skills is one of the key features which families and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) first observe. ASD is a condition related to brain development that affects how an individual perceives and interacts with others, with consequent challenges in social interaction and communication. There is no single cause for ASD. Both genetics and environmental factors play a role.
Children with ASD walk, move around and run as expected for age, hence identifying the signs early is quite a challenge. Aside from language delays or behavioral challenges, caregivers and teachers might notice differences in the way the child interacts with other kids of their age. These mild differences which may be attributed to autism may already be present as early as before a child walks or runs. The typical age children are diagnosed with autism is usually over 3 years of age. Yet, parents and caregivers report that they first noted that something is different in their infant within the first year of life.
Below are social, communication and behavioral challenges in a child with autism:
As every child is unique, a child with autism will not necessarily have all these challenges and will not be exactly like another child with autism. Some children with autism may have mild symptoms while others may be affected severely. Challenges with social interactions, communication and behavior can lead to problems in school and learning, social isolation, stress within the family, victimization and being bullied. Adults with ASD might not be able to live independently and have employment issues.
Parents and caregivers know their child best. For this reason, any concerns about how a child speaks, acts, behaves and plays should be discussed with the child’s pediatrician. At the same time, parents and families can also track their children’s development utilizing simple milestone checklist or trackers such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Milestone Tracker App (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones-app.html). This will facilitate communication with the child’s pediatrician and medical team.
Although there is no way to prevent ASD, there are various treatment options. Recognizing the early signs of ASD paves the way for early intervention which is most helpful to the child and family. Early intervention can improve behavior, skills and communication. Any intervention is helpful at any age. Although a child with ASD may not outgrow their condition, they may certainly learn to function well.
1) The power and promise of identifying autism early: Insights from the search for clinical and biological markers. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2009. 21 (3): 132-147. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/eutils/elink.fcgi?dbfrom=pubmed&retmode=ref&cmd=prlinks&id=19758535)
2) American Academy of Pediatrics 2019. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/Autism/Pages/Early-Signs-of-Autism-Spectrum-Disorders.aspx)
3) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Milestone Tracker App (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones-app.html)
About The Expert
LOUDELLA V. CALOTES-CASTILLO, Child Neurologist
Dr. Louddie is active in both academe and clinical practice. She believes in work/life integration and is unceasingly learning and re-learning the amazing brain from her four little rascals and her extended children (her patients).
She completed her Pediatric Residency and Fellowship in Pediatric Neurology at the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital. She took further specialty training in Neuromuscular diseases in children at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Australia and completed a Summer School of Myology at the Institut de Myologie, Pitie-Salpetriere, Paris France.
She is currently a Clinical Associate Professor and an attending physician of the Division of Pediatric Neurology, University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital. She is also a guest faculty of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health where she teaches both basic and clinical neurosciences. She has served as a Board of Trustee of the Child Neurology Society of the Philippines from 2017-2018.
Dr. Louddie is affiliated with various hospitals such as The Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center - Global City, ManilaMed, and National Children’s Hospital. In MedMom – Institute of Human Development, as their child neurology consultant, she collaborates with other medical specialists and allied health professionals in the care of children with special needs. She has empowered the Muscular Dystrophy Association of the Philippines (MDAP) as they launched the First Muscular Dystrophy Run in the Philippines.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.