This recent article from Bold Sky described characteristics that can be seen in 2-Year-Olds. When you read information like this you need to understand that these areas may not ALL be present in a child’s development, especially for children who may eventually be diagnosed with higher-functioning autism, like Aspergers Syndrome or PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified.)
The author writes (and I quote)
“Early Signs: They do not make eye contact, they don’t smile when you smile at them, they don’t follow objects, they don’t make noises to get your attention, they don’t respond to cuddling, they do not do any baby talk or babbling and they don’t reach out to you to be picked up.
Social Difficulties: A parent needs to check the characteristics of autism in 2 year old in a social environment as well. Children with autism appear to be disinterested or unaware of the people around them. They try not to make friends and prefer not to be cuddled. Basically, they seem to be aloof and detached from others.
Speech and Language Difficulties: They often start talking late. They repeat the same set of words over and over. They have difficulty in communicating needs or desires and language is used incorrectly. They talk with an abnormal tone of voice and an odd pitch. These are a few of the characteristics of autism in toddlers.
Non Verbal Communication Difficulties: Characteristics of autism in 2 year old is more prominent in non-verbal communication. They avoid eye contact and their facial expressions may not match with what is being said. They don’t pick up the tone or the gesture used. They react unusually to smells and sounds. These are a few of the characteristics of autism in 2 year old.
Inflexibility: They have difficulty in adjusting to a new schedule, unusual attachment to strange objects and obsessive in arranging things in a particular order. They may show repeating the same actions or movements over and over again with preoccupation in a narrow topic of interest.”
Read the full article here.
My son had a high-functioning autism diagnosis at age 10. As I look back at his development, I can pinpoint areas of concern from the above list, but NOT ALL the areas. In fact he was advanced in several areas. It was his advanced skills that delayed his being diagnosed correctly. Had we gotten an early correct diagnosis, we would have been able to access services when he was a toddler and preschooler. Here are the things we were dealing with:
His early signs did not include any problems with eye contact, cuddling or babbling. He reached out to be picked up and was advanced in his development of language.
He did not show traditional signs of social difficulties. He wanted to be with other kids, and had some difficulty knowing the rules of playing with others. It was difficult for him to be with peers, but he was terrific with older kids with whom he could have an “intelligent conversation”. He also enjoyed younger kids because he could teach them about things he knew about.
He did not have typical speech and language difficulties. In fact he talked early, and often. He absorbed language like a sponge from every source possible: conversations, radio, TV, reading. He was 6 months ahead of children his age for talking in sentences. Actually he taught himself how to read before Kindergarten. So his advanced skills masked the difficulties he did have.
Now here are the areas from the above article that I observed in my 2-year-old with autism:
Non-Verbal Communication – this was difficult for my son. Although he did not avoid eye contact, he was not able to “read” others, with facial expressions and body language. This was an area where we used very explicit teaching. I recommend the book Teaching your Child the Language of Social Success, by Duke, Nowicki and Martin. He did have strong reactions to sounds and smells. So we went further and got an OT to help us manage his sensory processing.
Inflexibility – he needed routines or he would melt down. He organized his own routines (like saying goodbye at the classroom door in the morning). I organized other routines with bedtimes, meal times and play groups. If we were doing something uncommon, like a trip to the dentist which only happened every 6 months, I used social stories to help him recall and anticipate the routine of that event.
When you look at the warning signs of autism, it’s important to remember that not every child will display every symptom. You must consider all the issues in combination when considering an autism diagnosis.