Sunday, September 6, 2009

Autism Symptoms?

I have heard many people over the past twenty years ask about ‘autism symptoms’. At different times the question has struck me differently. I suppose most people are expecting me to come out with a list of five things they can use to look at whether a person has autism or not. If only it were that easy.

Most people do not realize that the symptoms of autism can vary widely across children and adults. The symptoms also change depending on other characteristics of the child or adult we are talking about. Usually we are looking at three main areas concerning autism: social interactions, relationships, and behavior. Unfortunately it is not even that simple, as the severity of each of these areas can be different.

Relationship problems are talking about the ability to connect. To connect with parents, siblings, and friends is what seems to be sometimes the most disturbing part of autism. At least at first, that is what I and other parents I know have experienced. Social interactions or communication is an on going autism symptom that is particularly troubling as time goes on. My daughter got speech therapy all through school and sometimes besides what she got at school. It was hugely important in our family that she be able to communicate on whatever level she could. Then the behaviors, this is probably the biggest autism symptom I hear about once a family gets over the initial surprise at the problems with connecting.

Of course each one of these areas can be involved in various degrees. I hear professionals who are usually not parents talk about mild, moderate, severe, and profound as the levels of severity. At first I suppose I was a little offended but these four levels at least give you a frame of reference.

This description is probably just the start of all the things that come to my mind when I hear someone ask about the autism symptoms. Some other areas I will try to cover at a later date are the ages you might see symptoms, the different characteristics which will make a difference, why it is good to talk about autism symptoms, and why you might not want to wait for a doctor to identify autism.

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