Red Flags for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affects 1 in 88 children. It impacts upon the way an individual interacts and communicates within their home, school and community environments.

Early intervention provides the best outcomes for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The earlier a carer can identify symptoms in their child, the sooner therapy can commence to maximise a child’s potential in terms of both their expressive language skills and comprehension abilities. There are three major areas of functional difficulties experienced by a child that has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder: communication, behaviour and social skills.

Communication red flags

Communication is a critical part of a child’s development and sets the foundation for building relationships. Autism Spectrum Disorder impacts upon children differently regarding their communication abilities. Some children will achieve all speech and language milestones and experience difficulties only with social communication and interaction when they grow older and go to school. Other children may have significant difficulty learning to talk and may need ongoing support to communicate their needs and want to others.

Speech pathologists assist people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with their communication abilities. If your child displays the following symptoms, we recommend you get in touch with your general practitioner and a speech pathologist:

  • No babbling by 11 months of age
  • No simple gestures by 12 months such as pointing
  • No single words by 16 months
  • No two-word phrases by 24 months
  • No response when their name is called
  • Loss of any language or social skills at any age

Behavioural red flags

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have differences in their behaviour in comparison to other children of the same age. Such behaviours include restricted and repetitive interests, problems with sleep, motor coordination issues and sensory processing dysfunction.

If your child possesses any of the following symptoms, it may be worth speaking with your general practitioner.

  • Odd or repetitive ways of moving their fingers or hands
  • Oversensitivity to certain textures, sounds or lights
  • Lack of interest in toys, or plays with them in an unusual way (e.g. lining up, spinning, opening/closing parts rather than using the toys as a whole)
  • Compulsions or rituals – has to perform activities in a special way or certain sequence and may be prone to tantrums if these rituals are interrupted
  • Preoccupations with objects such as light switches, doors, fans, wheels
  • Unusual fears

Social red flags

These red flags are more easily identifiable when your child begins to interact with other children on a regular basis. The symptoms below are a few of the many social red flags – your general practitioner and speech pathologist are the best professionals to contact when you recognise these symptoms in your child.

  • Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people
  • Does not point to show things he/she is interested in
  • Rarely smiles socially
  • More interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Does not make attempts to get parent’s attention
  • Does not look when someone is pointing at something
  • Seems to be “in his/her own world”
  • Does not respond to parents attempts to play
  • Avoids or ignores other children when they approach

Children, adolescents and adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder each have unique challenges and differing abilities regarding their communication skills, behaviour and social skills.

Early diagnosis and early intervention is critical for maximising a child’s skills and providing strategies to assist with improving a child’s overall functional abilities.

Assessment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder involves assessment by a medical practitioner, speech pathologist, psychologist and often also an occupational therapist. Anyone who is concerned regarding their child and a possible diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder should speak with their general practitioner and a speech pathologist.

Support and assistance at any age can provide critical strategies to assist individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to engage and interact across home, education and community environments to their greatest potential.

Please contact our team today for more information on our services for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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Every child is different.

All children develop at their own pace – from rolling over and learning to crawl, to eating solid foods. It’s a process which is different for every child.

When it comes to communication development, there are general communication milestones which determine if a child is progressing appropriately with their speech and understanding abilities. These communication milestones tell us whether their current skills are typical for their age.

If your child is having difficulty saying a range of speech sounds, unable to join words together to make sentences or struggles to follow instructions, then a speech pathology assessment will be valuable to determine if speech therapy may be beneficial for your child.

What speech milestones should I keep an eye out for?

There are a few critical speech development milestones which you can look out for – you can download the information sheets here.

At 12 months a child should be babbling, gesturing and starting to say a few words. They should be able to copy sounds and noises you make. In terms of understanding, they should be able to respond to their name, recognise greetings and acknowledge familiar people.

At 18 months the number of single words a child can say should have increased with these spoken words becoming easier to understand by family members and friends. They will understand simple instructions and point to both familiar objects and pictures in books.

At 2 years a child will have more than 50 words that they can say clearly and be using these words in two-word phrases eg. “Bye Mummy”. They can follow two-part instructions and respond appropriately to “what” and “where” questions.

At 3 years a child should be speaking using 4-5 word sentences. They should be asking questions and be able to talk about something that has happened in the past. They should be able to follow complex instructions, recognise colours and understand concepts such as ‘same’ and ‘different’.

At 4 years a child should be able to make longer sentences describing events, asking lots of questions and able to count. They should be able to answer questions and understand “why” questions.

At 5 years a child should use full sentence constructions, take turns in conversations appropriately and use most of their speech sounds correct. They can follow three-part instructions, understand time-related words eg. before and after, be thinking about the meaning of words and be able to recognise most letters and numbers.

Do I need to go to the doctor before taking my child to a speech therapist?

You don’t need a referral from a Doctor to make an initial speech pathology appointment.

The “wait and see” approach is not recommended regarding a child’s speech and language development. If a parent has concerns regarding their child’s communication abilities it is best to make an appointment to see a speech pathologist so that evaluation can take place to determine whether an issue or delay exists.
The sooner your child is seen by a speech therapist, the sooner we can work on helping your child with their speech.

What will the speech therapist do in our first appointment?

The speech pathologist will assess your child’s speech and language skills. Important developmental information will be taken and questions asked regarding your child’s communication abilities within the home and preschool/school environments as well as in the community.

Via play or by looking at pictures, the speech pathologist will determine whether the child’s speech skills are appropriate for their current age regarding both the speech sounds used and length of utterances spoken. The speech pathologist will also evaluate whether the child is able to understand different concepts and follow instructions appropriate to their chronological age.

The speech pathologist will then be able to give feedback as to whether speech pathology intervention is necessary or could be beneficial for the child.

How long does speech therapy take before it’s effective?

The amount of speech therapy required for each child will depend on a number of individual factors. The severity of the speech and/or language delay or disorder will determine how long speech therapy will be required to maximise a child’s communication abilities.

Harrison Speech Pathology tailors your child’s speech pathology intervention program to the individual needs of your child to ensure that efficient and effective intervention is provided to every client.

If you would like one of our experienced speech therapists to meet your child and assess their language development, get in touch with our office today. We would love to help you.

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