Behaviors To Expect When Your Child Has Autism
The difficulties that lay with diagnosing a child with autism depends a lot on a parent’s visual record of their child. The majority of this visual record is about the behaviors the parent has encountered with their child, and the types of responses received versus the types of responses that are typical. While a parent can either keep a journal of these things or relay them to a behavior analyst when the child is being tested, it is still vital to the process.
So what behaviors should you expect if you suspect your child has autism?
Beyond the physical and vocal limitations and slow development in each of these areas how can you tell what’s developmentally approrpriate and what isn’t? It’s a difficult question, because of the level of autism your child may have, but often the behaviors are very noticeable.
- Repetitive vocalizations or phrases, if he or she is verbal. It may worry you that your child has something a little more complicated than autism, (such as obsessive compulsive disorder) but these children often appear to like the sound of their own voices and will repeat noises or compulsively focus in on a topic and talk nonstop about it even if it isn’t appropriate or doesn’t fit in with the conversation around or with them.
- Repetitive hand movements. Shaking or flapping hands like a bird, wringing of the hands or twisting of the fingers, anything that looks like a bird taking off or self torture. This can also occur with other limbs and parts of the body, and it doesn’t stop without behavior modification and therapy.
- Rocking, swinging, swaying, pacing, running from one spot to the next and back again several times. These are all out of character for the average child if they are not purposeful and seem out of context with what is going on in the environment.
- Shrieking, screaming, crying, wailing. These sounds are usually the ones that bother parents the most, because they will occur at the drop of a hat or, as is the case with higher functioning autistic children, when something has completely frustrated them and they act out over the top vocally. It’s also very difficult to discover what a non-verbal autistic child wants or needs, because half the time the loud vocalizations come when the child wants or needs something, is in pain, doesn’t feel well, etc. With time a parent can learn intuitively what causes their autistic child to make these loud utterances and how to deal with them.
- Biting, hitting, kicking, scratching, punching, and slapping. While these can be typical kid things, in children with autism it’s acting out aggressively because they don’t like the rules, the status quo, the fact someone else has a toy they want, or even if they don’t like their lunch. If these behaviors are present in your child beyond the expected age for them to disappear, special training may be needed. Healthy redirection, quiet time apart from a group, and verbalizing to the child that that type of behavior is not allowed are the best approaches to this kind of behavior. In a child with autism, this is a behavior that they really don’t outgrow, it just has to be modified to occur less and less. In the average child, once they get past age two or three they outgrow it and find other ways to appropriately express themselves.
- Tantrums, stripping in public or in front of houseguests, etc. These are usually attention seeking behaviors and can be dealt with by only paying attention to the child when their behavior is acceptable or if you need to remove them from danger. While these may be even more shocking than all the previous behaviors together, you have to remember as a parent that shock on your face is exactly what your child is looking for.
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