What it means to be autistic

Autism is a communication and processing condition. It can affect how a person communicates with other people verbally or non-verbally / physically. It can also affect how a person processes sensory information such as sights, sounds, smells, flavours and even textures.

The first signs that a child may be autistic often manifest around 14-18 months old and may include:

  • Lack of speech
  • Missed developmental milestones
  • Squeaking or ticks instead of words
  • Lack of eye contact
  • A sense of withdrawing from the world around them, as if in an invisible bubble
  • Expressing upset or distress in noisy or crowded environments (eg a family party)
  • Only eating a certain type of food
  • Unusual patterns of play such as stacking or lining up toys rather than playing with them, or spinning toys and watching them for long periods
  • Unusual body positioning such as watching tv upside down, or standing on head in bed / cot
  • Repetitive movements such as spinning, flapping hands
Please note:

This is not a diagnostic tool, just a checklist for worried parents who suspect some investigation into the matter may be required.

If your child is exhibiting some of these symptoms it is worth making an appointment with your GP in the first instance to find out more. The GP will usually make a referral to child psychology for a more detailed assessment. If you strongly suspect that your child may be autistic but you feel that your GP is dismissive of the notion, push strongly for the referral. Most GPs are fairly conversant with autism symptoms but quite a few are not and you you should trust your instincts as a parent if you feel strongly that developmentally, things are not right with your child.

Next: How do I know my child is autistic?