Early Intervention: Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Children

Early intervention can make a big difference in how kids with autism communicate, behave, and interact with others. But before intervention can happen, parents and other caregivers must spot the signs and symptoms of autism in children. Only then is it possible to get the timely support and therapies that can greatly benefit your child and family. Wondering what to watch for? Here’s a look at the most common signs.

Social Challenges

Kids with autism often struggle to understand emotions, make eye contact, and interact with others. Their way of processing the world can differ from that of their peers. This leads to unique challenges in social situations and typically results in children feeling overwhelmed by the interactions.

They may prefer to play by themselves as a result, making it difficult to form friendships with their peers. When they form bonds, these friendships don’t always last very long due to misunderstandings about how others think and feel.

Sensory sensitivities, like being overstimulated by loud noises, can further complicate their social interactions. When rowdy play begins, children with autism may prefer to leave the group and find a quieter place to be.

Communication Difficulties

Communication difficulties are common in children with autism. They may face challenges in expressing themselves and understanding others. Depending on the severity, they might have speech delays or not speak at all. Some rely heavily on pointing, gestures, and other cues to express themselves instead.

The repetition of certain words, phrases, and sounds is also common. Known as echolalia, this behavior is a way for kids to self-soothe, process their surroundings, and communicate. It can occur in many different ways, such as repeating the question directed to them instead of answering it or repeating phrases they heard on TV.

Many people with autism take things very literally. They may find it hard to grasp jokes and sarcasm, resulting in potential misunderstandings. This can further complicate their social interactions and cause them to isolate.

Repetitive Behaviors

Repetitive behaviors are one of the hallmark signs of autism in children. Hand-flapping, rocking back and forth, and becoming fixated on specific topics are just a few ways this symptom can present. Echolalia may occur with these repetitive behaviors or separately.

Oftentimes, these behaviors peak during routine changes and other times of stress. They’re highly soothing and help kids manage overwhelming sensory inputs and unfamiliar situations. They provide comfort, predictability, and a sense of control when the world feels chaotic.

Repetitive behaviors can pose challenges in social settings. The repetitive movements and vocalizations are often difficult for other kids to understand, leading to misunderstandings and teasing. Adults may misinterpret the behaviors as hyperactivity or misbehavior as well if uneducated about autism in children.

Sensory Sensitivities

Kids with autism may have sensory sensitivities. Their senses may be heightened or reduced, depending on the situation. For example, these children may find certain tastes and textures overwhelming. Or they may experience sensory overload in loud environments or areas with bright lights. Scratchy fabrics, seams, and tags in clothing can all feel uncomfortable to children with autism.

On the other hand, they might not react to sensations that others may find uncomfortable or even painful. If they’re playing outside in cold weather, for example, they might not feel the biting chill on their skin and come inside to warm up. This reduced sensitivity to pain, temperature, and other sensations can pose safety concerns, so parents must be especially vigilant in monitoring these children.

Cognitive Differences

Autism can affect how kids think and learn, but it’s not always a bad thing. Some children with autism have exceptional abilities in areas like music, math, and science. They may excel in these subjects, especially if they hyper-fixate on learning and practicing their skills. At the same time, these children may find problem-solving and abstract thinking exceedingly difficult.

Their brains may also process information differently. For instance, they might struggle with understanding idioms but have an incredible memory for facts about their favorite subject. Although this can cause difficulties in social settings, it often means that children with autism approach problems innovatively and bring a fresh perspective.

With the proper support, understanding, and patience, many children with autism can learn to overcome these challenges. Early intervention plays a crucial role in this process, providing them with tools and strategies from a young age. Through this proactive approach, it’s possible to improve their communication, social interactions, and overall well-being.

At Opal Autism Centers, we understand the importance of early intervention for autism in children—and offer the tools and strategies kids need to grow and thrive. If your child has any of the signs and symptoms of autism, you can get support from our team by calling (888) 701-1388.

Upon receiving your call, we’ll help you schedule a free clinical consultation and provide information on our ABA Therapy programs. Through that process, you’ll gain the knowledge needed to decide how to best support your child now and in the future.

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