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Autism in Children and Teens

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects communication and behavior and is caused by differences in the brain. The exact causes of autism are still being researched. According to recent data, about 1 in 36 children in the US are diagnosed with ASD by the time they are 8 years of age. If you suspect that your child might have autism or if your child has been diagnosed with autism, we have helpful information to share with you. 


Some of the early signs you might notice are delays in social and language skills, differences in how they interact with their peers, and regression in developmental milestones and skills during the toddler years. You might also notice a delay in joint attention, which is looking back and forth between an object and another person during an interaction.  Understanding and using gestures is a skill that children typically develop by the time they are 12 months old. For example, if a parent points at an object, most toddlers will look at the object before looking back at the parent. A child on the autism spectrum might not do so and may appear to ignore their parent. 


Staying on top of your child's milestones and what to expect during each stage of your child's life will help you determine if your child is exhibiting these signs or not. It is also essential to stay up-to-date with your child's well check visits so that your pediatric provider can monitor your child's development and perform screenings for ASD, which is usually done at their 18-month and 24-month checkups. If you and the pediatrician suspect that your child has ASD, a full evaluation will need to be completed before your child can be officially diagnosed with Autism. An evaluation includes observations of your child's behavior and social interactions, a detailed physical examination, developmental assessment of all skills, and a hearing test. 


For children who are on the autism spectrum, early intervention is the key to unlocking your child’s full potential.  There's a variety of intervention options that can benefit the child such as therapies for speech and language, behavior, sensory integration, physical skills, and social skills. There are also different types of accommodations and adjustments for academic education that help children with autism to learn more efficiently. Some kids with autism, for example, learn through visual means and can follow instructions if illustrated or demonstrated. Different types of treatments work with different kids, so it is recommended to create a personalized plan based on your child's unique and individual needs. Our pediatrician can help point you in the right direction and provide you with resources to get started on an intervention plan. 


Teenagers with ASD are at a higher risk of mental health struggles such as anxiety and depression. Because they tend to socialize differently than some of their peers, they may feel excluded, outcast, and lonely. Adolescents on the autism spectrum may also struggle with expressing how they feel so it's vital to take notice of their behaviors and pay attention to any changes. If your teen is suffering from anxiety or depression, behavioral therapy can be beneficial. Make sure to check in with your kids frequently to see how they're coping and let them know that you are there to support them.  


If you have any questions or concerns about autism spectrum disorder, please call our office. 


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