When should you test your child for Autism?
Knowing when to test your child for autism is an important step for supporting any lifestyle changes or therapeutic care they may need to lead a fulfilling life. In recognising the signs and symptoms early on, this can lead to timely interventions which will ultimately improve long-term outcomes for your child.
In this short guide, we will provide insights into what autism is, how it presents in early childhood, explore typical symptoms of atypical development and explain a few of the tools we use at Psymplicity to assess the condition in children. Whether you are a parent or a caregiver, this article aims to provide you with valuable information to help you better understand the signs, and some of the steps involved in assessing autism in children.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals in a variety of ways. It is often characterised by challenges in social interactions, communication, and repetitive or restrictive behaviours, activities or interests. Autism is referred to as being a spectrum disorder because the way it presents is entirely individual, with there being a wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms that different people experience. Some people with autism may need more support than others to live the lives they want.
How does autism present during early childhood?
Autism typically becomes apparent during early childhood, in some cases as early as the age of two. However, whilst signs may begin to appear early on, they are not always easy to identify. There are a few indicators which can be helpful in assessing autism at this young age.
In the first year of life, children with autism may demonstrate deviations from typical social and communication development. Below are some of the signs you may be able to spot:
- They may not smile in response to someone who is smiling at them.
- They may not make eye contact with others.
- They may not use gestures to communicate.
In the toddler years, children with autism may exhibit more noticeable signs when they start to interact with other children more frequently. Here are some signs which you may notice in a toddler with autism:
- They may not be interested in playing with other children.
- They may repeat everything they hear.
- They may sometimes talk in an unusual tone of voice.
- You may find they play with toys in a restrictive or unusual manner.
Typical symptoms of atypical development:
Symptoms can become more distinct and complex as children age. Recognising these symptoms of atypical development in your child is crucial in determining whether further assessment for autism is necessary.
Whilst the exact characteristics of autism can vary between individuals, there are actually some common indicators that we often find.
- Social Interaction Difficulties: Children with autism may have difficulties such as struggling to establish and maintain eye contact, respond to their name, or engage in reciprocal play with their peers. For some, they may exhibit limited empathy and have trouble understanding social cues or non-verbal communication.
- Communication Challenges: Delayed or impaired language development can often be observed in children with autism. They may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, or may demonstrate echolalia; repeating words or phrases without context. There may also be a difficulty in synchronizing body language with verbal language, such as facial expressions or gestures.
- Restricted Interests: Children with autism may become intensely focused on particular topics or objects, sometimes at an unusual intensity.
- Repetitive Behaviours or Movements: Individuals with autism often display repetitive behaviours such as hand-flapping, rocking or lining up toys. This can otherwise be known as ‘stimming’; self-stimulatory behaviours. They may also ask people around them to do or say things in a particular way.
- Devotion To Routine: Children with autism can often exhibit devotion to their routines and may be very resistant to changes in those routines. This may also expand to changes in their psychical environment, such as the positioning of their bedroom furniture.
- Sensory Sensitivities: Children with autism may easily become overwhelmed by their senses, with over-sensitivity to light, sound, touch or taste. Some children with autism can equally experience under-sensitivity to their senses.
If you do find that your child is persistently challenged by any of the symptoms we have talked about in this blog, an autism assessment can help you to ensure that your child is receiving the support they need. At Psymplicity, we follow a thorough, evidence-based approach to diagnose autism.
Autism Assessments at Psymplicity
The NICE (National Institute for Health Care and Excellence) guidelines recommend that for a diagnosis of Autism in children, the practitioner must examine various key components. These components include a detailed developmental history, observations of social communication and behaviour and standardised assessments using validated tools to assess autism related behaviours and traits. It is also important that a diagnosis is made as a result of a comprehensive assessment involving a multidisciplinary team.
At Psymplicity our autism assessments are carried out with the involvement of multiple practitioners with varied areas of expertise and the utilisation of validated tools such as:
The ADI-R (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised)
The ADI-R is a structured interview that is designed to gather information from parents or caregivers about the child’s developmental history and current behaviours related to autism. The ADI-R assesses three main areas: social interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours.
The ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule)
The ADOS is a semi-structured, play based assessment that usually involves two clinicians observing and evaluating a child’s social interaction, communication skills and general behaviour. It is considered one of the gold-standard assessments for diagnosis of autism. The assessment is divided into different modules based upon the child’s age and language level.
At Psymplicity our specialist psychiatrists have years of experience in helping both children and adults with autism. They can offer support for you and your child to help navigate a diagnosis of autism and provide you with the tools to manage the condition going forward. To find out more about our ASD assessment process, please visit our website page. To book an assessment with us either visit our website, or get in touch with us on 0207 118 0407.
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