Autism Journey: Older Children Signs of Autism

Now, my son is almost four so I haven't seen much of each thing but I can explain the best I can. I do have experience with older children have autism as I was a para to kids that were in kindergarten to fifth grade.

As children get older, red flags will be more diverse. They typically revolve around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, non-verbal communication difficulties, and inflexible behavior.

Social Difficulties:

  • Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what is going around them. 
    • My son can literally play for hours by himself and won't even look at us to see if we are paying attention to him is a big one.
  • Doesn't know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
  • Prefers to not to be touched, held, or cuddled
  • Doesn't play "pretend" games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in a creative ways. 
    • Miles will play pretend games but...he only does when his sister is playing. He will do exactly the same thing she is doing. It's hard to tell the difference and see the difference because they are learning from their sibling.
  • Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them.
    • Miles won't tell you he is sad or mad. We work on this at home a lot with him. He is just now telling us when he's sick, what hurts, and he's mad. 
  • Doesn't seem to hear when others talk to him or her. 
    • This is really Miles. I have a video of me saying his name more then ten times while hie is sitting in front of me. His hearing is perfect this is just how he is. To get his attention we tap him but usually we have to wave our hand in front of his face. 
  • Doesn't share interests or achievements with others. 
    • Never glances back to see if we are watching while playing. 
Speech and Language:
  • Speaks in a abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch. 
  • Repeats the same words or phrases over and over.
  • Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it. 
  • Uses language incorrectly or refers to him or herself in third person
  • Has difficulty communicating needs or desires
  • Doesn't understand simple directions, statements, or questions
  • Takes what is said too literally. 
Nonverbal Communication difficulties:
  • Avoids eye contact 
    • Not always, Miles has pretty good eye contact. 
  • Uses facial expressions that don't match what he or she is saying. 
  • Doesn't pick up on other people's facial expressions, tone of voice, or gestures. 
  • Makes very few gestures. May come across as cold or "robot-like"
  • Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises. Can also be unresponsive to people entering/leaving, as well as efforts by others to attract the child's attention. 
  • Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving. 
Inflexibility
  • Follows a rigid routine
  • Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment. 
  • Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches, or rubber bands. Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order. 
    • Miles does this a lot. First it was straws we had to collect straws from everywhere then it became rocks. I have a huge collection of rocks from his school playground.  Now it's moved on to legos. 
  • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols. 
    • Miles was for a while was really interested in planets. 
  • Spends long periods watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car. 
  • Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling. 
    • Miles twirls or runs in circles. He never gets dizzy. 
If you see any of these and are worried about your child. See a doctor to either calm your fears or help diagnosis your child. The earlier the diagnosis the better chance your child has to receive the help he/she needs. 

Before Miles was officially diagnosed and I had no clue that it could be autism. I thought it was because I was a horrible mom. I started beating myself up because how could my daughter be like this and my son is total opposite. Is it because I was so stressed with Student Teaching. Until I was given a huge blessing and that was a job offer to be an autistic para in my school district. It was then things started to click for me. It was like a huge tada! It wasn't because of the way I was a parent to my kids. It was because the things that I was doing to raise my children wasn't clicking with Miles. I started then to learn more and talking to the teacher I worked with at the school on tips. Then we got placed on the list to be evaluated. A 2 year waiting list. In the meantime we contacted our local Infant Toddler program. They evaluated him for their programs they offer and Miles started speech and behavioral therapy through them. He grew in those two years working with his therapist. Then when he was officially diagnosed. I grieved. I couldn't figure out why....my son was alive. He progressing. I knew for sure before he was officially diagnosed that he had autism. But I was grieving because I knew that things were officially different. It had to take me sitting myself down and saying, "Your son Miles...is still...Miles. He hasn't changed. You now just got an amazing blessing to know how to raise him. How to help his mind grow. So STOP IT! Get to helping him." 

Autism is not a death sentence. Your child has most likely been this way his or her whole life. Now, you get to get them the help they need. You get the help you need to raise these amazing people. Get on the floor and get to their level and see the way they see the world. You are in for a ride. 


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