Recognizing Warning Signs of ASD/Developmental Issues in Young Toddlers
, Jul 14 2011 10:49 AM
31 replies to this topic
Posted 14 July 2011 - 10:49 AM
Dear Fellow EB Parents:
There are similar pinned messages on the other toddler & kids' boards, but I want to target this one as well, especially in light of a lot of recent posts from parents who are worried about their child's development. (Forgive me for sounding like a broken record on this score, but this is a matter so near & dear to my heart!)
As a mother of two young kids, I can appreciate that there can be a fine line between fretting over every nuance of your child's development and being diligent in keeping an antenna up for possible issues.
When I first started worrying that something was slightly "unusual" about my daughter's development -- around the age of 12-15 months -- autism was nowhere on my radar screen!
Sure, my daughter seemed "different" when I compared her to other babies at playgroup, but she was also happy, smiling, and meeting all of her physical milestones. So I chalked up my concerns to being a paranoid, first time mother.
Everyone around me -- my well intentioned friends, family, online DIG, and even some medical professionals -- assured me that she was just "quirky," "sensitive" and "developing at her own speed..." which only reinforced my feeling that I was a stereotypical nervous mother. Nobody
encouraged me to explore my concerns further until, finally, more than a year later, two girlfriends intervened and gave me the courage to seek the opinion of a specialist.
For any of you who have niggling concerns about your own child, but need a gentle nudge to act upon them, I hope that this message will encourage you to trust your gut and take action. If you click on the link in my signature, you will see why I feel so passionately about this issue.
If you are worried about your child's development -- physical, social, speech issues, sensory sensitivities, whatever -- I encourage you to raise those concerns with a qualified professional. Your MCHN or GP should be able to do a relatively simple developmental screen to help set your mind at ease or validate that further exploration is needed.
If you are told "don't worry" yet you continue to feel in your gut that something isn't right, please don't be afraid to seek another opinion.
This link below sets forth Hallmark Development Milestones
(key social, emotional & communication milestones) for babies/toddlers. This can be a good launching off point for a discussion with a health care professional about your child's overall development.
On a more specific note, here are some of the very early red flags for autism spectrum disorders, which are now THE most common developmental disorder in Australia.
RED FLAGS FOR ASD IN BABIES/TODDLERS
Below are some of the early warning signs -- usually seen in the first two years -- of ASD. Some children will have many
of these early warning signs, whereas others might have only a few
. Also, any loss of social or language skills during this period is cause for concern.
* doesn't consistently respond to her name
* doesn't smile at caregivers
* doesn't use gestures independently -- for example, she doesn't wave bye-bye without being told to, or without copying someone else who is waving
* doesn't show interest in other children
* doesn't enjoy or engage in games such as peek-a-boo or patty cake.
* doesn't use gestures to get needs met -- for example, she doesn't raise her arms when she wants to be picked up or reach out to something that she wants
* doesn't use eye contact to get someone's attention or communicate -- for example, she doesn't look at a parent and then look at a snack to indicate she wants the snack
* doesn't point to show people things, to share an experience or to request or indicate that she wants something -- for example, when she's being read to, she doesn't point to pictures in books and look back to show the reader
* doesn't engage in pretend play -- for example, she doesn't feed her baby doll
* doesn't sound like she's having a conversation with you when she babbles
* doesn't understand simple one-step instructions -- for example, "Give the block to me" or "Show me the dog."
* has an intense interest in certain objects and becomes "stuck" on particular toys or objects
* focuses narrowly on objects and activities such as turning the wheels of a toy car or lining up objects
* is easily upset by change and must follow routines -- for example, sleeping, feeding or leaving the house must be done in the same way every time
* repeats body movements or has unusual body movements such as back-arching, hand-flapping and walking on toes.
* is extremely sensitive to sensory experiences -- for example, she is easily upset by certain sounds, or will only eat foods with a certain texture
*seeks sensory stimulation -- for example, she likes deep pressure, seeks vibrating objects like the washing machine, or flutters fingers to the side of her eyes to watch the light flicker.
Additionally, the University of California-San Diego's Autism Center of Excellence
, a world leader in research, early detection & early intervention, has some excellent, very easy-to-digest information on its web site:
Identifying autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) at the earliest age possible is of the utmost importance because early treatment can be very beneficial to the child and his/her family.
Abnormalities in how babies acts socially, as well as how they pay attention to and interact with their non-social environment, may be early warning signs. A delay in speech alone generally does not signify autism, but in combination with other warning signs, could suggest that a toddler is at risk.
Below are early warning signs describing what children at risk for an ASD between 12-24 months generally don't do, as well as a description of what they might do. Note that it is very common for typically developing toddlers to also show some of the red flags listed below.
(to read the specific examples, please click on the link below - they complement the information above):
If any of the above resonates with you, it doesn't necessarily mean that your child has ASD, but it does suggest that further investigation is warranted. Your GP can refer you to a developmental paed, a specialist who focuses on the comprehensive (physical, emotional, behavioral) development of children.
For more specific information for how to get an ASD assessment in your state or territory, check out:
There is so much that can be done to help children with ASD and other developmental issues reach their full potential, especially when these issues are caught early. Waiting lists for various professionals and various professionals can be long and funding support is overwhelming skewed toward young (below school age) children, hence another set of reasons to take action sooner rather than later.
In the words of my daughter's straight-shooting developmental pediatrician, "No child was ever harmed by an assessment or early intervention, but plenty of children could benefit from receiving timely support."
Thanks for reading this far,
To learn more, check out:
Edited by baddmammajamma, 25 August 2013 - 10:28 AM.
Posted 08 October 2011 - 05:02 PM
I just read your post and had to reply! I think everything you have said is amazing!
Someone else that I know just had their toddler assessed and their child does not have ASD, but they have been diagnosed with ADHD.
At such a young age, (just over 2) its so much to take in, and the one thing that stuck in my mind was the quote that the mother had said to her mother (a friend of mine).
That quote was, 'I just felt so bad, like it was my fault because of bad parenting.'
How awful that the mother had to go through this.
The more awareness there are for disorders, the more tolerating and accepting our communities will be. So even though I don't know you from a bar of soap, thanks for doing this - every time I read something like this, I am reminded once again of how important it is not to judge and also of to follow up any niggling thoughts you have for your child's health.
Posted 08 October 2011 - 05:19 PM
Hi, your posts are always really informative.
My dd who has Asperger's (& ADHD) would have had a lot of signs from the last 2 categories but none from the social as a toddler. I have my suspicions my toddler could have Asperger's too but I'm just watching for now. I will raise it with our specialists soon. Again though, there's none of the social signs.
So I guess it's also worth knowing that not all kids will have the signs that people see as what a particular syndrome or disorder is 'all about'. (She is the same with ADHD, she doesn't have the 'in your face' behaviours which makes these things hard to put your finger on as a parent. I felt for years that there was something about dd that didn't fit but didn't know where to start).
Posted 08 October 2011 - 06:40 PM
: Thank you so much for your very kind words. I agree with you that educating people -- both parents whose children might need support as well as the broader community about various developmental disorders -- is something that is so important.bubblegummum
: Your point really resonates with me. My daughter didn't show a lot of the "in your face" signs that people typically associate with ASD, which made it even harder for me to know whether I was just being a "Nervous Nelly" or whether I had reason to be concerned.
I've shared this quote recently, but it bears sharing again (from the wonderful First Signs web site):“Don’t worry.”
These two words have often discouraged parents and have prevented many children with developmental delays from getting what they need: early screening and identification, and appropriate intervention. Despite the fact that there is a direct correlation between early identification and improved development, parents with concerns about their children are often told not to worry. “Don’t worry...boys develop more slowly. Don’t worry...she’ll grow out of it. Don’t worry...Einstein was a late talker too. Don’t worry...just give it a few months.”
If you have concerns, don’t worry: take action.
Ask your physician to arrange for a routine developmental screening.http://www.firstsigns.org/concerns/if.htm
Thanks for taking the time to read!
Posted 08 October 2011 - 06:49 PM
Posted 08 October 2011 - 07:02 PM
I will keep these resources in mind.
I have a niece diagnosed with Aspergers at 11 and a nephew (her brother) at 28 who was never formally diagnosed, but I'm sure is on the ASD spectrum. In hindsight, if only we knew or someone in school picked it up ..... He could have been helped so much more
Now I have my own DS I keep a hawk eye on him. I think all is okay, but should it not be, I know he can be helped. So thanks.
ETS - rubbish spelling
Edited by Fennel Salad, 08 October 2011 - 07:03 PM.
Posted 09 October 2011 - 01:52 PM
I have a good little book I got on sale recently. I can't remember the name but it's a 'when to worry' kind of book written by a couple of phsychiatrists. They go through a lot of typical ages and stages and explain a lot of the things that are typical and those that aren't - i.e. when to chase things up.
I really think mums of girls need to know that ASD & ADHD often look very different in a girl. Especially, in our experience, because girls can be very good mimics. I realise in hindsight that my extremely social, extroverted first born was probably 'faking it' for years. She was so good at appearing to have social interaction figured out. It was years before it started falling to pieces. And girls with non hyperactive ADHD can be bright enough to go under the radar. They're clever enough to perform at a satisfactory level despite missing so much of what's going on in the classroom.
Most people that know my eldest do not believe she has these two conditions. Yet if you read in depth on either she is really very typical. Most people think they know what ASD and ADHD are - but they only know the really obvious signs that you typically read about or that really stand out.
Posted 28 December 2011 - 08:43 PM
I think we as parents need to trust our instinct, to listen to that 'inner voice' when it tells us that there may just be something not quite 'normal' about our children's behaviour.
It is hard when your concerns are not validated, even as a nurse I didn't follow my gut when my eldest was 3 weeks old and this almost cost the life of our child. I had put a 'dog ear' in my neonatal nursing text on the page which described Cardiac Failure on day 1 of her illness so I 'knew' but I was repeatedly being told that I was just being a paranoid and typical nurse and my baby was fine so I doubted myself and let it go---until it was almost too late 3 days later.
Please read the links that BMJ has provided, it is always far better to worry and be proved wrong than to ignore and miss the opportunity to utilise all the amazing early intervention programs/treatments that are available now for children with ASD.
Posted 06 January 2012 - 04:15 PM
Bumping to raise awareness!
Posted 06 January 2012 - 05:20 PM
Thumbs up to this post. Thank you.
Posted 06 January 2012 - 06:12 PM
I am a little concerned about a friend's son - reading through those signs he exhibits a few of them, especially the sensory and behaviour ones.
He is a very happy, smiley boy who is meeting all physical milestones but I just feel like there is something a bit 'off'.
I'm not sure how to bring up my concerns, she is a very good friend but I don't want to offend her. My little girl is slightly older and I don't want my friend to think that I'm comparing our children IYKWIM.
You have provided much food for thought!
Posted 06 January 2012 - 06:51 PM
Thanks for the support and for helping keep this thread active.Plappermaul,
it is a really tough situation to have concerns about a friend's child (or any child who is not your own). Among parents, there is no consensus on what the best practice is. Some parents will appreciate their friends' candor and concern, while others might be offended.
If your friend does give you an opening of any sort ("I'm a little worried about Billy's fixation with lights." "I wonder when Billy's speech is going to kick in."), you can always use that as an opportunity to encourage her to get things checked out -- for her own peace of mind. Developmental screens (by an MCHN or GP) are painless and easy.
First Signs, which is a gem of an organization that is devoted to helping parents/care givers/professionals recognize the early warning signs of ASD and other developmental issues, has put together a valuable piece on things to consider if you want to express your concerns "Parent To Parent:"https://www.firstsigns.org/concerns/parent_parent.htm
Hope this helps!
ETA: I just went back & re-read all of my posts here. I swear, I don't work for First Signs!
I just love their work, that's all.
Edited by baddmammajamma, 06 January 2012 - 06:58 PM.
Posted 20 February 2012 - 04:30 PM
The nerve! Bumping her own thread!
Doing so because there seem to be a number of people expressing concern today about the development of their very little ones.FYI:
On each toddler & kids board (12-24 months; 24-36 months; 3-5; 5-8; 8-18), there are pinned threads that cover the most common "ASD flags" for kids in those ages groups. Some of those flags might surprise you.
As I am so fond of saying, if you have concerns about your child's development -- ASD or otherwise-- the very best thing you can do is get those checked out with a qualified professional. Your GP (or MCHN) is a good starting point and can refer you on to a developmental paediatrician if needed.
Posted 07 January 2013 - 11:20 AM
updated & bumped
Posted 27 January 2013 - 01:02 PM
I am very glad you bumped BMJ and am bumping again.
I hope you don't mind but I often refer worried parents to your threads as I don't believe they could get better information anywhere.
EB is very lucky to have you as an advocate and a resource. x
Posted 22 April 2013 - 09:06 AM
Bumping in light of Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month
Posted 11 July 2013 - 02:04 PM
Since this is a pinned note (prime real estate on EB), I like to check in periodically so it doesn't become a stale post.
In May, there was an excellent piece on The Conversation by Dr. Cheryl Dissanayake, who heads up the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre
at La Trobe University in Victoria -- La Trobe is a real leader in Australia re early detection of/early intervention for ASD.
EB's very own Bel Rowley/blondiebear, who did an internship at The Conversation, was the one who got the piece rolling below. It not only appeared on The Conversation's web site, it was also a featured piece on EB!
Good stuff!Mums and dads, don't ignore the early signs of autism.
There are also some really excellent web sites/resources listed in my signature link, in case you want more information.
Posted 11 July 2013 - 02:23 PM
Thanks so much BMJ.
We are here in the midst of the diagnosis process and it is so complex. Along with the likely ASD she also has a mild-moderate sensorineural hearing loss.
I am having trouble with well-meaning people who make me worry that I am worrying needlessly despite having had concerns from the day she was born.
I long for the day I can have a basic conversation with my own daughter. Something simple like telling her I love her and knowing she understands me.
Edited by OneProudMum, 11 July 2013 - 02:25 PM.
Posted 11 July 2013 - 02:44 PM
I am thinking of you and remembering the overwhelming mix of emotions I felt when my daughter was the same as yours (and we were just beginning our assessment journey). It was really frustrating to have my concerns dismissed or marginalized. I know that most of my friends and loved ones had good intentions, but it was not helpful at all to have them tell me "'Don't worry." I was also very scared about what the future was going to hold, not to mention sad because I longed for moments like "Mommy, I love you."
Anyway, just want you to know that you are not alone and that, from what I've experienced & what many of my ASD parent friends have experienced, the stage you are at is one of the toughest -- not knowing exactly what's going on, not having a firm game plan in place to address needs, not having the benefit of seeing the progress that early intervention often brings.
We are now 5.5 years past the point where you are now, and my outlook is much different (much, much more positive). We've been really fortunate to have had some wonderful support around us -- not just therapists and teachers but a lot of friends who have kept our spirits up during the more challenging times. Some of my best "cheerleaders" and most meaningful relationships have been with other parents of kids who have ASD because in some way, they can all relate to some piece of our journey.
Good luck. You are doing the right thing by fully investigating your concerns. I hope you get some answers that will help. xx
Posted 11 December 2013 - 08:51 PM
There are certain ASD red flags that are fairly well known -- for instance, lack of eye contact, lack of interest in other children, and hand flapping or rocking.
But there are also some flags that are not as well known -- such as looking at things from the corner of the eye, leading an adult by the hand to a desired item rather than pointing to it or asking for it, and an early and intense fixation on letters, numbers & symbols.
The link above includes some of the experiences of parents of kids with ASD -- what quirks we saw in our babies & young toddlers who then went on to be diagnosed with ASD.
Our lists are by no means exhaustive or definitive, but they should help other parents appreciate the many different ways ASD can present itself in young children. You will certainly see some common links in our stories!Updating to add the following EB thread link:
Posted 27 December 2013 - 08:12 PM
My son is 17months corrected ( 2 months prem) he just started walking but doesn't have words. He is quite the conversationalist and otherwise very engaging and I know exactly what he wants despite the lack of words and gestures. ( no pointing or waving etc)
Because of you I have already organized a speech therapist and hearing test. ( he is a cleft baby so I am paranoid about his hearing anyway) and answer with " it can't hurt" when people act surprised and say " don't worry" in response to engaging a speech so early. My personal feeling is that his hearing is a problem ( slightly) but its good to know the appts have been made and I can enjoy the amazing child I have produced with confidence that I have done all I can for him. So THNK YOU! X
Posted 27 December 2013 - 08:49 PM
Thanks for those kind words, and I hope you get some answers that will either put your mind at ease...or, if your son needs a boost, that he gets some valuable timely support. I am grateful to all of the other parents here who help promote the "When in doubt, check it out" message. Best of luck to you and your sweet son!
Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:10 PM
Hi badmammaajamma - is leading an adults hand always an autistic trait? My son sometimes does this but he also points to things and brings things to us too??
Posted 25 April 2014 - 01:06 PM
Just wanted to say thanks again to BMJ for this thread and to bump it. I have just spent a week with my parents and cousins, my mum expressed some concerns to me about my cousins sons language (he is almost 3) and some other issues, but she wasn't sure whether she was overreacting. Thanks to having read this and other posts when I was concerned about my own DDs language (although she has caught up now on that front- just has some other health issues) I was able to show mum the link and confirm she was not overreacting. She was able to raise the issue sensitively with my cousin (not something she would normally do without being asked for advice, but she is kind of a mother figure to him and can get away with it) without upsetting him, I am sending him the linked page and he is booking in with the mchn to see if there is an issue and what to do. We hope it's nothing but are relieved he will be checked, it was really stressing mum out but she didn't know how to approach it. So thank you EB!
Posted 26 April 2014 - 01:51 PM
That is great -- well, not great that you and your mom are concerned but that your cousin is taking proactive steps to get things checked out.
The link in my signature has a more "complete" version of the information above, along with some outstanding additional links. Please feel free to share it with your cousin.
I hope that your cousin is able to get some answers that give him relief, or, if needed, direct him to proper help for his son.
Thanks again for bumping this so that other families might benefit from the contents.
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