How can I tell if my child is autistic?
As a parent, you will be very attuned to your child’s development. But that does not always mean that signs of delay or developmental differences will be obvious to you. It is important to recognise that your child might not always show what is thought of as ‘classic’ signs that they are autistic. For example, sometimes parents might think “my child couldn’t be autistic” because their child is very sociable or makes eye contact. Autistic children learn to ‘mask’ , which means they are able to ‘perform’ behaviour that is deemed to be the social norm. It is important to take note of any slight changes or differences in your child, for example, your child may be conversational but may be delayed in their response or might repeat phrases from their favourite tv shows, movies or songs. If your child has sensory challenges it might be observable in their emotions or anxiety levels in a busy place such as a shopping centre or how they feel about labels of their clothes or wearing certain fabrics for example. If your child has trouble getting to sleep and sleeping through the night, this may be a sign that they might be struggling and need help. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with any aspect of your child’s behaviour, even if they are engaging in behaviours that would not be thought of as ‘typical’ behaviours such as flapping or rocking. Your child’s behaviour serves a function for them and allows them to regulate their environment.
It is also important to remember that autism is genetic, which means that there are a great many undiagnosed autistic parents of autistic children. Sometimes these parents don’t see signs of their child’s autism because it is how they themselves interact, communicate and understand the world.
If you see signs that your child might be autistic, or you are concerned about your child’s development, it is a good idea to talk to somebody. Talking to your GP sooner rather than later will help you on the path to understanding and supporting your child best.
What are common signs?
It is important to always remember that individually, autistic people are very different to each other. This is because autistic people (like all people!) have their own individual personalities, histories, families, experiences, likes and dislikes. They are just as different to each other as neurotypical people are to each other. However, there are some common traits that autistic people often share, such as sensory differences, communication preference differences, a preference for honesty and enjoying passionate interests.
What might be common characteristics of Autism regarding social interaction?
These things can vary depending on the day, situation or even year depending on what else is going on in someone’s life. So again, some autistic people may be amazing public speakers, but after a big lecture need a few days not speaking to anyone in order to “recharge.” Other autistic people might really enjoy going to rock concerts on one day, but on another find the ticking of a clock unbearable.