News / South Africa / Health

Angela Bekiaris
2 minute read
12 Feb 2018
11:00 am

The low-down on autism

Angela Bekiaris

What exactly is autism, and what should you be looking out for?

Picture: 123RF

Autism has been described as a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms.

Causing delays in baby development, it is diagnosed in infancy and early childhood in children who are delayed with learning to talk, play and interact with others.

We share some warning signs and symptoms below.

TIP: Some children with autism have only mild impairments, while others have more obstacles to overcome.

Signs and symptoms

While they vary widely, there are some symptoms to look out for in children, courtesy of Helpguide.org:

  • Appearing disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them.
  • Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
  • Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
  • Doesn’t play ‘pretend’ games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
  • Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them.
  • Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to them.
  • Doesn’t share interests or achievements with others.

A boy with autism makes a bead necklace on March 2, 2012, in Isle d’Abeau, France.

Must-know red flags!

By six months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.

By nine months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.

By 12 months: Lack of response to name. No babbling or ‘baby talk’. 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

Pupils play in their new classrom as the Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi launches the first Autism specific special school in Gauteng that has its own premises Orlando West, Soweto, 18 January 2016. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Pupils play in their new classrom as the Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi launches the first Autism specific special school in Gauteng that has its own premises. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Educate yourself

Remember, you as a parent knows your child better than anyone, so look out for warning signs and always check with your medical professional before jumping to conclusions or if in doubt.

Monitor your child’s development: Take note of social, emotional and cognitive milestones.

Take action if you are concerned: Don’t ignore symptoms. Rather check with your doctor to be sure. Don’t ‘wait and see’.

Trust your instincts: if your gut is saying something is wrong, get check to make sure, even if it means getting a second or third opinion.

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