Are you noticing signs of delays in your child? Is your child nonverbal or behind on their developmental milestones? Are you wondering if maybe your child has Autism? Let’s go over some warning signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the steps you should take!
*A disclaimer before viewing the warning signs… it is important to remember that autism is a SPECTRUM disorder… no two children on the spectrum are exactly the same. There is no definitive checklist for autism. The warning signs that I am about to give you are merely *common* signs.
Common early warning signs of Autism:
- No speech or delayed speech
- Repetitive speech or babble
- Does not point to objects
- Does not respond to his/her name
- Avoids eye contact
- Repetitive physical motions (hand/arm flapping, body rocking, spinning n circles)
- Over/under sensitivity to sounds, lights, smells, tastes, and touches
- Little to no social skills
- Avoids or resists physical contact
- Lack of safety/danger awareness
- Lines up toys or objects
- Plays with toys the same way every time
- Prefers/focuses only on certain parts of objects (ex. Wheels)
- Unusual eating and sleeping habits
- Causes self-injury
- Lack of interest in objects or thing
- Little to no imaginative play
- Prefers to be alone
- Difficulty understanding emotions (their own emotions and the emotions of others)
- Easily upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
- Unusual interests and behaviors
- Extreme anxiety or phobias
*To reiterate, if your child has some attributes that are on this list, it does NOT mean they are definitely on the spectrum. On the flip side, your child may have little to no attributes on this list but could still have other indicators that may lead to an autism diagnosis. This list is merely a jumping off point from commonly seen signs.
So if you still have concerns about your child, maybe they have a few of these common signs… what’s next? What are the first steps to getting answers? To getting your child help?
Here is my step-by-step list to starting the ASD process.
1. Schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss concerns.
A. Generally a referral to a developmental pediatrician is needed for an autism diagnosis. Be aware that getting in to see a specialty pediatrician can often take a long time (upwards of six months).
B. I suggest that while you wait for a medical evaluation to be conducted, you jump to parts 2 or 3 (depending on the age of your child) then return to 1c when you hear back from the office performing the evaluation.
C. The evaluation process can vary based on the office you’re using. (My son was only seen by the developmental pediatrician for about 1-2 hours, my daughter was seen by a developmental pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist, totaling 4 hours)
D. If the evaluation finds your child on the Autism Spectrum (or with another type of developmental delay) it can open a window for many fully or partially covered services under your insurance.
-Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy
E. Get a referral from your doctor for the therapy services. You can do these therapies in addition to any Early Intervention or school services your child may start receiving.
2. If your child is between the ages of 0-3:
*Disclaimer: my knowledge of Early Intervention programs is largely based on Michigan’s program. It’s been difficult to find comparative data among all state programs, so take some of these details with a grain of salt and be sure to look up the steps for your specific State‘s Early Intervention Program!
A. Look up your State’s Early Intervention Program. All States and US territories offer early intervention programs, but each State’s program may vary from others. However, ALL Early Intervention Programs in the U.S. are completely free.
B. You can self-refer your child for an evaluation online
C. Someone from the program will reach out to you, send you profile questionnaires for you to fill out about your child, and get your consent for their program to perform an in-home evaluation.
D. Generally the program has a set amount of time from the moment you refer your child until the entire evaluation is completed. (Because every state is different, I’m hesitant to say that this is the case for every State’s programs. Michigan has 45 days from the time of referral to complete the evaluation.)
E. If the evaluation finds a need for services (speech, occupational, physical therapy, etc) State-funded, in-home services can begin.
F. Services can run year round and your team will update your child’s plan yearly.
If your child is 3 years old or older:
A. Reach out to your School District’s special education department and discuss getting an evaluation for an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
B. Your child can get evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team. This team is made up of licensed professionals employed by the school based on your child’s specific needs (medical, physical limitations, learning delays, etc)
C. If the evaluation finds a need for special education services, the team can put together your child’s limitations, needs and goals into an IEP and school based services can begin.
D. Beginning School services
-If your child is school-aged already at this time, They will receive services during the school day. The most desirable option is to have the child in general education classes and have them pulled out for short therapy sessions.
-If your child is not school aged yet, but has aged out of early intervention programs (so between ages 3-5) your child can still receive services through the school system, either in the form of a preschool, special education preschool, or a drop in therapy program, depending on what your school offers.
A. Do your research
-Look up the above things I just discussed (the closest developmental ped in your area, your state’s early intervention program, and your school districts website)
– Get in touch with your insurance company and find out your coverage information. Do they offer supplemental coverage for autism? What therapy services are covered? Make sure you’re aware of your copays and deductibles.
– Find credible online sources to learn a little bit more about Autism Spectrum Disorder. You can get good sources from your pediatrician, health department, and school district!
B. Find online resources
-I swear just go to Pinterest and type in Autism Activities and you will get a million and more ideas for sensory play, fine and gross motor activities, etc.
-Find parent support groups. It’s just just whining and bitching (I mean.. sometimes it is…) but they are also a great place to share ideas and resources!
A. The hardest parts are over. Honestly, trying to navigate where to start and who to reach out to was probably the most overwhelming part for me my first time around.
Honestly, this blog took me forever to write. Not ONLY because I’m quarantined inside my very small house with my two very stir-crazy, needy children who will not let me sit at my computer in peace for more than 5 minutes at a time….. but because I didn’t want to spread false information. Although all of these services are available in every single state, I can’t say for certain that every detail of these programs will be exactly the same. I really tried to do my due diligence here. Perhaps if my children would let me get some more research time in I could actually pull criteria for every single state, but I have a feeling until I can get these kids back in school that’s just not in the cards. So if you’ve stayed with me this far, let me just say once more, PLEASE be sure to look up the programs and services for your specific state!
Happy Autism Awareness Month
Stay Safe and Healthy!
Multi-Disciplinary Team / IEP : More Information