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Detecting Early Signs of Autism

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One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching.

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What are the signs of autism?

  • The timing and severity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, symptoms become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.
  • Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.

The following “red flags” may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:

By 6 months

  • Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions.
  • Limited or no eye contact.

By 9 months

  • Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 12 months

  • Little or no babbling
  • Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
  • Little or no response to name.

By 16 months

  • Very few or no words.

By 24 months

  • Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

At any age

  • Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Persistent preference for solitude
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
  • Delayed language development
  • Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
  • Restricted interests
  • Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors

People with autism have challenges in the areas of social communication/interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors. A few examples:

  • Social Communication/ Interaction
  • Difficulty establishing or maintaining back-and forth conversations and interactions
  • Inability to initiate an interaction
  • Problems with shared attention or sharing of emotions and interests with others
  • Abnormal eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures, as well as an inability to understand these
  • Lack of interest in other people
  • Difficulties in pretend play
  • Engaging in age appropriate social activities
  • Problems adjusting to different social expectations.
  • Restrictive/Repetitive Behavior
  • Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements or use of objects
  • Excessive adherence to routines
  • Ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior
  • Excessive resistance to change
  • Highly restricted interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment

No two people with autism are the same. There is no single behavior that is always present in every individual with autism..

For more info visit autismspeaks.org

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. Children with ASD have difficulty with social communication/interaction and exhibit restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a wide range of ability among people with ASD. Some people with ASD are gifted and others need significant levels of support to ensure their health and well-being.

People with ASD – at any age – can make significant progress through therapy and treatments, and can lead meaningful and productive lives. Experts agree that early diagnosis and early intervention are critical – early intervention leads to positive outcomes.

Physical Therapy for a Child with Autism
Physical Therapy (PT) helps children master skills related to independent mobility and gross motor function, and is one of our core services.  In PT, we work to enhance and restore mobility, functional competency and independence, and other neurological, developmental or orthopedic delays and/or disabilities.

Licensed physical therapists utilize individualized therapy plans implementing exercise, specialized techniques/devices to encourage independence at home, school and in the community.

Occupational Therapy for a Child with Autism
The primary occupation of childhood is to grow, learn and play – allowing the child to live life to their fullest potential. Occupational Therapy (OT) focuses on developing sensory-processing abilities, motor skills, coordination, peer interaction, play and self-care skills to participate in daily life activities. We offer a comprehensive evaluation and customized treatment plans.

Speech-Language Therapy for a Child with Autism
Speech-Language Therapy strengthens children’s communication and feeding skills so they can participate fully in daily activities and achieve success.  Speech-Language Therapy addresses language comprehension, pragmatics, speech-sound production, voice, fluency, along with oral motor and feeding skills.  Therapists use years of experience in typical and atypical speech and language development to offer a fun and engaging environment for children to learn and develop their skills.

Early detection and early intervention is the best way to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities gain greater independence.

2 Resources to consider:

Easterseals
Easterseals offers many treatments and therapies for children with ASD, including occupational therapy, physical therapy, assistive technology (AT), inclusive day care, and support for parents and siblings.

Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley offers these services at centers in Villa Park, Naperville, and Elgin. To get started or learn more, call 630.282.2022. Visit eastersealsdfvr.org/AutismServices for more information.

SEASPAR
In 2014, SEASPAR built Wonders, the first Multi-Sensory Room within a municipal building in the country. Wonders is located at the Lisle Recreation Center – Door 8, at 1925 Ohio Street in Lisle.

Wonders features interactive equipment that pleases the senses in a variety of unique and soothing ways. It primarily benefits individuals of any age with: Autism/autism spectrum disorders, ADHD., Sensory processing disorders, Dementia.

Benefits of visiting Wonders include:

  • Improved mood.
  • Fewer disruptive behaviors.
  • Decreased anxiety. and fear
  • Improved communication.
  • Enhanced interpersonal interactions.

Wonders’ specially-designed equipment appeals to the auditory, tactile, olfactory, and visual senses:

  • Several items are also available for individuals to move around the room as they please. Examples include the Jumbo Love Bug, aromatic stuffed animals, weighted blankets, and more.

Visiting Wonders requires registration through SEASPAR. For more information, call 630.960.7600. or visit: seaspar.org


EDUCATION RESOURCE

Shriners Hospitals for Children®
Chicago improves the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, conducting innovative research, and offering outstanding educational programs for medical professionals. Children with orthopaedic conditions, rehabilitation needs including spinal cord injuries, and plastic surgery needs including cleft lip and palate are eligible for care, regardless of the families’ ability to pay.  All care and services are provided in a compassionate, family-centered environment. For more information, please visit www.shrinerschicago.org.
LEARN MORE

Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley
Offering services from A to Z to meet the needs of each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). At Easterseals, every child with ASD has an individualized therapy plan to help them reach their goals at home, school and in the community. Services include occupational, physical and speech-language therapies, behavioral and social work services, assistive technology and support for parents and siblings. Visit eastersealsdfvr.org/AutismServices for more information.
LEARN MORE

SEASPAR
SEASPAR is a special recreation association offering therapeutic recreation programs and services – including summer day camps and a multi-sensory room – for people with disabilities served by the park districts of Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, La Grange, La Grange Park, Lemont, Lisle, Westmont, and Woodridge, and the villages of Brookfield, Indian Head Park, and Western Springs. Visit SEASPAR.org or call 630.960.7600 for more information about our year-round programming for all ages and all abilities!

Creative Corners Preschool
Creative Corners Preschool provides every student with a quality early childhood experience by creating an atmosphere where they can grow socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually through an engaging and explorative curriculum. The Illinois Early Learning & Development Standards are used in the teaching of academic skills to build a strong foundation, achieve benchmarks, and assure school-readiness. Creative Corners offers families a variety of programs for children ages 2–6, with flexible schedules to meet all needs. Contact: Jeanette Berard, Recreation Supervisor Jeanette.Berard@DPParks.org at the Des Plaines Park District, 2222 Birch Street, Des Plaines, IL 60018. 847-391-5700 DPParks.org.

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