Could it be autism?

Could it be autism?

The period of wondering and worrying whether someone you love is on the spectrum can be a difficult and stressful time.

You may have your own concerns about your child’s behaviour, speech or development. Or possibly it’s other people — such as teachers or family members — who have hinted at the need to investigate.

Could it be true? Might it all be a fuss over nothing?

Whilst we can’t answer those questions, we can tell you with absolute certainty:  ‘When in doubt, check it out’

If you suspect autism in your...

Toddler or Preschooler

It’s important to investigate any concerns you have about your child’s development, at any age. Check out our pages on the signs of autism in toddlers and preschoolers.

Trust your instincts and don’t be swayed by well-meaning comments from family members or friends, such as: ‘You’re worrying too much’ ‘Uncle John didn’t talk until he was four’ or ‘She’s just a bit quirky’.

By discouraging parents from seeking professional advice, this sort of false reassurance can prevent or delay children from getting what they need: early screening and identification, and appropriate intervention.

If your child is on the autism spectrum, the sooner they receive a diagnosis the sooner you can start providing them with the support and understanding they need to reach their full potential.

School-Aged Child

While we’re getting better at recognising the signs of autism, it’s still possible for a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to reach school without receiving a diagnosis, especially if they don’t have any language delay. The average age for a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome ranged from six years in one study to eleven in another.

Often these children may have coped well in preschool, but as the social rules become more complicated and work demands increase, they begin to struggle. Unfortunately, this can lead to a child being labelled a ‘troublemaker’ by teachers, and social isolation and bullying from peers.

If you (or your child’s teacher) suspect your child may have ASD, ask your doctor for a referral for a diagnostic assessment. If nothing else, a diagnosis should lead to them receiving more understanding and acceptance at school.

If you suspect you may be on the spectrum yourself

Although autism is usually diagnosed in childhood, increasing numbers of adults are finding out that they too are on the spectrum. It’s not uncommon for a parent, having had a child diagnosed with autism, to recognise autistic traits in themselves.

The decision to seek a diagnosis as an adult is an individual one, with some people happy to remain self-diagnosed. However, if you believe that autism is negatively affecting your life, work and relationships, a formal diagnosis may lead to you receiving more emotional and financial support.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss further typical early signs of ASD, demonstrate how these may differ in girls, boys, and throughout the lifespan, and dispel a few persistent myths and misconceptions about autism.

Helpful resources

Understanding autism

Autism and girls