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How Do I Know if My Child Has Autism?

March 31, 2022 7 min read

How Do I Know if My Child Has Autism Chubibi Blog

How do you know if your child has autism? Are his behaviors consistent, or do they go through periods when they appear to be “on and off,” or are there other factors to consider?

These are often the first and most important questions to ask about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A parent has many questions and needs answers to get him started on the right path. Some of these questions are:

  • Why are his behaviors so erratic and inconsistent? What is causing them?
  • How long has this been going on? If he’s been acting differently from a young child, how long has that been going on?
  • Does he have the same “friends” across settings or is it usually one set of friends and one set of teachers?
  • What if your son goes off schedule, does he go to daycare? Does he keep a calendar of events? Does he follow the same routine from day to day?

The questions may be endless that makes us parents even more worrisome for the welfare of our children. This article will help us understand more about what autism is and how to spot the signs and symptoms to help us take action should we suspect our child to have autism.

How can parents spot the warning signs of autism?

1. Social development

Your baby is not like his peer group — he doesn't play in a structured way, doesn't share toys, does not engage in make-believe, cannot imitate facial expressions or gestures and does not seem to take much notice of you. This is known as 'poor interactive behaviour'.

This type of behaviour may occur without an underlying medical or developmental disorder, although if it is accompanied by unusual eye contact or other odd responses your clinician may recommend additional assessment tests.

2. Physical and speech development

You feel your baby is a bit slow to reach important development milestones, such as rolling over, sitting up, taking solids and having a first word; he may not speak her first few words — particularly if he is a boy. 

Some parents experience delay in their child's speech and language development or motor development — such as crawling or walking. 

There is no specific age or milestone where an individual will be diagnosed with Autism. Autism is a spectrum condition which can present in different ways. It is not uncommon for children with autism to start walking at an appropriate age, but never to speak their first word, or to walk and talk around the time expected for their age. 

As there is no specific age or milestone to detect when it is necessary to speak to a child's doctor, even children who appear to be developing normally can have an autism-like condition which has not previously been recognized.

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Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Babies and Toddlers

1. Abnormal development before 2nd birthday: 

A baby does not normally smile by the age of 6-8 months. Babies normally cry when they are distressed. Between 8-12 months, babies start to smile spontaneously when they are happy. This change starts before the age of 2 years.

2. Problems with social interaction: 

Babies start to respond to people with gestures and signs at around age 1 years. Around this time they also develop their attachment to their parents (through interaction). Autism is a condition that prevents this interaction. Babies with autism start interacting with people at around age 4 years.

3. Lack or delay in language: 

By age 3 years, most children are at the stage where they are able to speak. Children who have autism have a delay in the acquisition of speech skills. Babies with autism begin to speak around age 5 years and often talk more than others their age.

4. Problems dealing with change and novelty: 

Babies start to be aware of time by age 2 years. Most children are aware of numbers by age 4 years. By age 5 years, they know all the letters of the alphabet. Autistic children learn the letters of the alphabet, but they learn them in an abnormal way. This leads to difficulty identifying letters on a page.

5. Problems with fine and gross motor skills

The most common problems with fine and gross motor skills are:

  • Slow development of motor skills (late or delayed onset, regression or loss)
  • Motor deficits/weaknesses that are not related to developmental or learning delays
  • A range of motor problems including poor posture and balance, clumsy movements, hyperactivity, or poor strength
  • Children who can't control their movements (e.g., rocking or flapping hands)
  • Autism-related behaviors may include:
  • Not following through with an action (such as throwing a ball or a jump rope)
  • Often repeating or over repeating movements
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slumpy, saggy or inflexible body posture
  • Difficulty in sitting, holding still, or standing for long periods
  • Fussy eating/food preferences (eating may be slow, fussy, or difficult)
  • Inability to walk long distances without losing balance, stumbling, or tipping over

A person who is suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder will not normally play with toys by themselves or follow instructions unless being asked to do so. They may not have a normal interest in people or the environment around them.

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Causes of autism

According to Dr. John Kinsbourne, one of the first researchers to write extensively about the causes of autism, the most common causes of autism are environmental or exogenous factors. 

What that means is that something in the environment causes autism in children. For instance, parents might be exposed to chemicals, such as mercury, and those chemicals get introduced into a pregnant mother's body. The baby's in-utero exposure to the chemicals causes Autism Spectrum Disorder in the newborn. However, Dr. Kinsbourne also mentions that parents can be exposed to viruses, for instance, rubella and that the in-utero exposure to the virus might be the reason for autism. The baby might be infected before being born and have the brain development that causes autism.

According to Dr. Kinsbourne, the most commonly held causes of autism are genetic or endogenous factors. 

What that means is, that the mother or father has already passed on the gene that causes autism, but it's only expressed if the child is exposed to certain environmental factors before it is born. Other genetic causes for autism, according to Dr. Kinsbourne, include chromosomal translocation, deletions and duplications in certain genes.

Some researchers have suggested the possibility that environmental factors cause autism because of genetic predispositions that are expressed in those types of situations. Certain genes that lead to autism might only cause the problem when certain environmental factors are introduced, so it's not a direct cause of autism; the gene is only triggered by the environmental factor. Or, genes might cause problems when triggered by certain genetic predispositions.

One popular theory is that autism is caused by vaccinations, for instance, MMR vaccine. However, the majority of scientific research has rejected that theory. A study published in May 2011 showed no link between autism and MMR vaccination. Other researchers have shown the same thing. For example, there is a study published in Pediatrics by Dr. Theresa Deisher, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego, that showed there wasn't a link between MMR vaccines and autism. In 2001, the Cochrane Collaboration had a meta-analysis of MMR vaccination and autism and determined that MMR vaccines were not responsible for the increase in autism cases in the U.S. and Western Europe.

So, in short, according to science, vaccinations don't cause autism. The same goes for other commonly held theories, such as diet, lead exposure, toxins in the environment, toxins in food, and the like.

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What can parents do to help their autistic child?

1. Talk to your child. 

As you’re chatting with your child talk about the person who used to use the word "flashing" in conversation, who you could see was not happy about that, and how the other person probably would not talk to that person again.

2. Talk about their feelings. 

Talk to your child specifically about the people who say or do the things that upset the child. Listen to what they say. Try to be kind and patient, but honest that the behavior is upsetting.

3. Encourage play.

If your child seems happier when they’re playing, encourage them to play more. Encourage imaginative play and sensory play activities as well as interactive play. Play for hours and talk and play together.

4. Offer age appropriate experiences, in safe contexts. 

Offer your son age-appropriate activities to keep him stimulated. He may not understand what other people are talking about, but he will know what he liked when he was a baby, maybe a toy, bottle, a walk, or music.

5. Consider using an applied behavioral analysis approach to help him understand other people’s emotions.

6. Support your child in all areas where you can be helpful. 

You can be helpful by being available if they want to seek out help from you.

7. Try to maintain calm, relaxed interactions with your child. 

Help your son understand that when you speak calmly you are still interested in and listening to him and you don’t mean to leave him out. Make sure the other parent understands this as well.

8. Make sure his diet contains adequate iron.

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What can educators do to include children with autism in their classroom? If you’re interested in having your children with autism in the classroom you’ll need to do some things first.

Do your homework on autism. Read books with your child, as well as articles online and articles on autism. Watch movies and TV shows with autism in the character. You’ll be surprised at how much children with autism can learn from just watching these.

Learn about autism and what kinds of interventions can work. The more you learn about autism the better you’ll be able to support your child.

Talk to parents of children with autism. They will have been there and done all the hard work before you are. They’ll help you understand your child’s needs.

In most cases, if your child is found to have Autism or ADHD, that is not an excuse for bad behavior in school or for you as a parent. Children have to learn to behave properly. If your child is having trouble in school because of behaviors, it is up to you as a parent to teach him or her. That is your responsibility. You have to be willing to work with the school system and the psychologist to find an effective solution to this problem.

If you have experience with children with autism, we will be grateful if you can share with us your stories in the comment section and help other parents who might be reading our blog.

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