Understanding Autism in Young Children

Updated: Jul 29, 2018

An overview of a webinar I recently was a part of. 'She' refers to the speaker.

Autism now affects 1 in 88 children, more likely occurring in males. Children are now screened at 9, 18, and 30 month check-ups. When children are screened for autism, there are 3 areas being looked at. Those areas are Communication, Social Interaction, and Repetitive Behaviors. Studies show there are more positive outcomes for children who are in Early Intervention versus children who are not.



Something that really stuck out to me during the webinar as a therapist was when the speaker described the "independent child.' I hear that a lot from parents...'he just gets what he wants himself, he’s very independent.' The speaker responds with 'that's because he doesn't want to take the time to communicate." This can be a red flag.


Most children with ASD are visual learners. This means they need pictures, symbols, print, words, signs, and/or gestures to aid in their communication skills. The speaker told a story of a child who constantly cried for "mom" at daycare and by simply placing a photo of his mother at daycare, the crying stopped. Using first and then language is a must. This helps them understand and deal with time, schedule, and transitions. You can use real objects too! Real objects are symbols for words.


Remember to take breaks and let them move around because gross motor organizes and help kids focus. She also talked about turning repetitive movements into more meaningful behaviors. For example, she talked about a child who used to get hyper focused on the toilet flushing...the child was re-directed to draw circles-it became a much more meaningful behavior.


If you work with older children in the schools, make sure you are giving these children written directions. The words go away. Use activities that have a clear beginning, middle, and end. These children tend to gravitate towards numbers and letters. Use this to their advantage, but make it meaningful (i.e matching, puzzles, singing, sound letter recognition, writing, reading, etc).



These children are also sensory challenged. Some activities/ideas given were: chewing (organizes brain), smells (can alert or calm), and rocking chairs, bean bags, or mini trampolines can offer downtime. These children are also very literal. Give them the words. If the child hurts their leg, you say "I hurt my leg" because they're going to repeat you.


My favorite part of the webinar was when she said "Stop, drop, and communicate!" Whenever you get the chance to communicate, whatever it may be, use it!

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