Let's learn about Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person's social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviours' and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees.

Who will get Autism?

It is not attributed to any single cause.

Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others don't, some risk factors include:

  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions e.g., Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, are more likely than others to have ASD
  • Very low birth weight

What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

Since it has a wide spectrum, ASD can seem different in different children / adults.

ASD, Autism spectrum disorder has a wide spectrum. Its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. However, the appearance of these symptoms differs from child to child. Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as early as a few months old. Others show normal development for the first few months or even years and then start showing symptoms.

Children with ASD will have symptoms throughout their lives but with proper healthcare management, it is viable for them to get better as they grow. As per statistics, almost up to 50% of the parents of children with ASD noticed signs by the time their child was about 1 year old (12 months) and between 80% to 90% observed concerns in their child by 2 years.

The Autism spectrum is very wide. Some experience extreme concerns while others come across very mild signs. However, the common attributes are impact on a child's social skills, communication and behaviour wherein the severity of the impact would depend on the autism spectrum. Let's look at each of these attributes in detail.


Social Skills:- These are the most common signs of ASD. These children struggle to interact and socialize with others. They might want close relationships but don't know how to develop and nurture the same. If a child is in the Autism spectrum, the following symptoms might be observed under the social skills category by the time they are 8 to 12 months old:-

  • They don't recognise and respond to their name by the 1st year (their 1st birthday)
  • They prefer solitude
  • Tend to avoid eye contact
  • Avoid physical contact
  • Such children are not interested in playing, talking and sharing with others
  • They struggle to apprehend emotions whether their own or of others.
  • Unlike other children, they don't like to be comforted when they are upset.
  • They might not stretch out their arms to be picked or guided with walking

Communication Skills:- The development of communication skills starts at a child's birth. It's a crucial milestone for parents to observe.

  • In ASD, Autism spectrum disorders, about 40% of the kids don't talk at all
  • During Infancy, about 25 to 30% show initial development of some language skills but lose them later
  • Some children start talking later in life
  • Most of the children with ASD have some concerns around communication

Communication Concerns:- Some of these communication concerns include:

  • Delayed speech
  • Delayed language skills
  • Inability to stick to a topic while conversing or answering questions
  • Flat speaking voice like a robot
  • Repeating the same phrase over and over, Echolalia
  • Problems with pronouns (E.g. using “you” instead of “I,”)
  • Rare or no use of common gestures like waving or pointing or responding to them
  • Unable to make out jokes or sarcasm

Behaviour Patterns:- Children with ASD show unusual behaviour patterns. Some of these encompass:

  • Hyper Behaviour and constant pacing
  • Short attention span and low concentration levels
  • Impulsiveness (i.e. acting without thinking)
  • Clumsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Aggressive behaviour both with self and others
  • Fussy in eating
  • Repetitive behaviours like jumping, rocking, hand-flapping etc
  • Fixations on certain activities or objects
  • Specific routines (and getting upset when a routine is changed, even if it's slightly changed)
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, touch, and sound
  • Don't participate in ''make-believe'' or imitating others' behaviours

Identifying Early Signs & Symptoms

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.

Early diagnosis and early intervention plays a crucial role in the treatment of ASD, Autism spectrum disorders. The earlier, the better it is. Hence identifying early signs and symptoms plays a pivotal role.

The following ways of self-screening may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder.

By 6 months

  • Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
  • Limited or no eye contact

By 9 months

  • Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 12 months

  • Little or no babbling
  • Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
  • Little or no response to name

By 16 months

  • Very few or no words

By 24 months

  • Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

At any age

  • Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Persistent preference for solitude
  • Difficulty understanding other people's feelings
  • Delayed language development
  • Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
  • Restricted interests
  • Repetitive behaviours (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colours

One should consult a specialist (developmental paediatrician), if the child doesn't meet these developmental milestones or meets but loses track later on.