Autism Spectrum Disorder
Learn the Early Signs
When can one detect Autism?
Symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.
The earliest sign of autism involve the absence of normal behaviors- not the presence of abnormal ones- so they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a “good baby”, since the infant may seem quiet, independent and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs if you know what to look for.
What can be the early signs?
Your baby or toddler doesn’t:
- Make eye contact, such as looking at you when being fed or smiling when being smiled at
- Respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
- Follow objects visually or follow your gesture when you point things out
- Point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
- Make noises to get your attention
- Initiate or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up
- Imitate your movements and facial expressions
- Play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
There can be developmental red flags:
The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation of your child:
What are the signs of Autism in older children?
By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions
By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions
By 12 months: Lack of response to name
By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk”
By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving
By 16 months: No spoken words
By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.
Signs of social difficulties
- Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled
- Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them
Signs of speech and language difficulties
- Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch
- Repeats the same words or phrases over and over, often without communicative intent
- Has difficulty communicating needs or desires
- Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or questions
Signs of nonverbal communication difficulties
- Avoids eye contact
- Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
- Makes very few gestures (such as pointing). May come across as cold or “robot-like.”
- Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises. Can also be unresponsive to people entering/leaving, as well as efforts by others to attract the child’s attention
- Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g., walking exclusively on tiptoe)
Signs of inflexibility
- Follows a rigid routine (e.g., insists on taking a specific route to school)
- Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment (e.g., throws a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged or bedtime is at a different time than usual)
- Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches, or rubber bands. Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order.
What does the Plexus comprehensive rehabilitation program for Autism consist of?
The treatment program starts with a detailed assessment of the child and an analysis of the parent’s concerns that help in goal setting. The program includes-medications and nutritive therapy, Occupational therapy and Speech therapy.Occupational therapy interventions include play therapy, sensory integration therapy, Behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy and social skills training.
A Holistic Approach Towards Treatment of Autism
Master ‘A’, a three year old child with Autism enrolled into the Plexus Intensive Rehab Program with the characteristic features of autism such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, no eye contact, typical toe walking, frequent falls, poor response to name call and following of commands. He exhibited severe sensory system related issues such as tactile hypersensitivity, proprioceptive seeking behaviors and vestibular defensiveness. With respect to speech, he used to babble, make some sounds. Also, he displayed inappropriate ways of expressing excitement/ anger and engaged in non-purposeful play.
A holistic approach was initiated to target various aspects for an overall development. This approach targeted the underlying neurological system as well as the skills and behaviours that were super imposed on it. Occupational therapy treatment, which formed the crux of the intervention was focused on developing the gross motor skills, fine motor skills, socio-emotional and academic abilities, dealing with sensory issues, facilitating active participation in daily activities and play with peers.
Play based therapy was used as an important tool to allow the child familiarize himself to his new surroundings. He was allowed to explore the environment freely rather than forcing him to perform therapeutic activities. Creating a strong trustworthy therapeutic rapport with the child was a major goal. Gradually, as the child became comfortable, rigorous therapies were started. A complete sensory program was created for the child. Sensory based play activities were used extensively to handle the various sensory concerns.
Gradually, amazing changes were observed in the child. The first major change appreciated by the parents were that he is no longer aggressive and hyperactive. As the occupational therapy program progressed, the child demonstrated various improvements in every aspect. He became competent in most of the gross motor activities such as jumping, climbing stairs, running, balancing self on various surfaces. The sensory issues of the child comparatively resolved. He developed increased tolerance levels while having a haircut, brushing feet during bath. Reduction in oro-motor issues such as biting hard textures (books), shirt.
He demonstrated great development in the socio-emotional aspect of his personality. He is able to recognize, understand and express emotions (non-verbally) to parents /therapist. He attempts to interact with adults (parents, therapists) non verbally on most occasions. The child actively began exploring his environment through play. The paradigm shifted from non-purposeful to engaging in purposeful play.
During mid-way of the program, the parents were encouraged to enroll the child in a normal school. This gave the child a regular routine, opportunities to interact with age mates and a feeling of ‘normalcy’. He gradually enjoyed attending school, interacts with age mates by singing nursery rhymes, taking part in competitions (running race), in various school activities. This was seen as an achievement as well as paved way for further socio-emotional development of the child.
He displayed great improvement in the cognitive domain too. He understands basic concepts of ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘under’ etc. He is able to identify, name shapes, colors, vegetables, fruits, alphabets (A-Z), numbers, body parts. He performs action rhymes well. Academically, he performs extremely well as mentioned by his school teachers. He actively participates in activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating.
Master ‘A’s’ journey that culminated in him attending a ‘normal’ school was nothing short of a victory for his parents and the treating team.