It is useful for parents to know the signs and symptoms of Autism and Asperger Syndrome that are related to their child’s stages of development.
Although they can be difficult for parents to detect, the signs and symptoms of ASD begin to show between 6 and 18 months of age in most children. These signs and symptoms include the following:
The signs and symptoms of ASD usually become more apparent as your child gets older.
Problems with language will become more noticeable. It is likely that your child will begin to have difficulty interacting socially. They will also show unusual patterns of behaviour.
The signs and symptoms that often develop during this age are explained below.
Some children with mild to moderate ASD may see an improvement in their symptoms as they grow older. Sometimes, attending school gives them an opportunity to learn the social and communication skills that come naturally to children without ASD.
Children with more severe ASD may find the school environment increasingly stressful. This can trigger episodes of disruptive and difficult behaviour.
Signs and symptoms that can develop in older children and teenagers are explained below.
Although most children with autism or PDD-NOS improve their language skills, specific difficulties with language may persist, such as:
In older children with Asperger syndrome, problems with their use and understanding of language often become more apparent. They include:
Older children with ASD often have additional problems at school because they do not understand how to interact socially.
This lack of understanding occurs in a variety of ways. For example, they may not realise that people usually relate to their teacher differently from how they relate to their classmates.
A child may have little interest in issues and activities that are popular with other children, such as music, fashion, sport or going out.
Many children with ASD are not aware that they are intruding into other people’s personal space. However, they can become extremely upset if they feel that their own personal space is being invaded.
All these factors often make it difficult for your child to make friends with children of the same age. However, some children with ASD do manage to form relationships with younger children or adults.
A child with ASD is likely to need strict routines as they get older. Many children with ASD develop a highly specific interest in a particular subject or activity, which usually involves collecting, numbering or listing.
This can range from a usual childhood activity, such as collecting football stickers (though children with ASD often pursue the interest much more intensely than other children) to activities or subjects not normally associated with childhood, such as an interest in train timetables or reading old computer manuals.
Children with ASD may move on from one intense special interest to another after a few months or years. They may wish to hold their special interest toy all the time, and even take it to bed with them rather than a cuddly toy.
Children with ASD prefer rigidity and predictability; changes, even small ones, may result in major tantrums. This could include not being able to wear the socks they've worn for a week, or having a trip to the park suddenly cancelled for a trip to the swimming pool.
Tantrums are common and it's often difficult for parents to work out what has caused them. However, they usually occur because something they weren't expecting has happened or because the adult wants to make a change to the routine.
Children with Asperger Syndrome often do well at academic subjects that involve facts, figures and logic. But they may struggle with subjects that require abstract thought, such as English Literature or Religious Education.