The world is currently in the grips of the pandemic; people are staying at home, and many social structures have changed. One of the most profound changes is the way we interact with the people around us. With the rise of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in recent years, more people than ever before are questioning whether or not they have an autistic child. Did you know that over 40% of children in North America are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder?[1] While there still isn’t any concrete evidence that autism can be prevented, it’s a common misconception that those with ASDs are doomed to be dysfunctional adults. Far from it, as many with ASDs can live happy and independent lives, and many turn out to be some of the most successful people you’ll ever meet.

What is Autism?

Put simply, autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and connect with others. People with autism have difficulty displaying and responding to emotions. They may also have restricted interests and repetitive behaviors that can be quite compulsive. In some cases, they may also have a noticeable language barrier but could still be highly intelligent. To be diagnosed with autism, a child must have exhibited symptoms by age two and must continue to meet the diagnostic criteria throughout their lifespan. There is no cure for autism, but plenty of support and treatments exist to help those with the disorder lead full and happy lives.

What Does It Mean to Be On the Autism Spectrum?

It’s important to note that people with autism fall on a spectrum, not a category, and those with ASD aren’t necessarily the same as those with classical autism. People with autism can display a variety of behaviors and may not always exhibit the restricted interests and repetitive behaviors associated with the disorder. Additionally, researchers often group those with Asperger syndrome together because of their shared difficulties in social skills, but those with Asperger syndrome don’t necessarily have to meet all the criteria for autism. However, among those with Asperger syndrome, you’ll usually find an extremely high degree of intellectual disability that makes it hard for them to cope with everyday life. They also have trouble expressing their emotions and interacting with others, making it easy for those around them to feel anxious or intimidated. This is why it’s essential to differentiate between the disorders, as each one has its own unique set of characteristics. Additionally, many people with autism discover that they have an extraordinary talent for specific areas such as art, music, or math, so it’s important to explore these as well since they can be helpful in day-to-day living.

The Rise In Autism Diagnoses

It’s important to point out that while autism has been around for centuries, it wasn’t typically seen as a medical issue. Instead, it was more commonly associated with adult-onset cases of schizophrenia and other psychological disorders. In the early 1900s, doctors began to see an increase in children being diagnosed with autism, particularly in wealthy, Western countries. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the American Psychiatric Association first included autism as a psychological disorder, paving the way for its inclusion in the DSM-III in 1980. Since that time, the number of children being diagnosed with autism has only continued to rise. In 2016, it was estimated that there were nearly 500,000 school-aged children living in the United States with autism, and the World Health Organization predicts that 1 in every 100 people will be living with autism globally by 2025.

It’s important to keep in mind that autism is still relatively rare. In North America, it’s estimated that there are around 4.5 million adults with autism, but it’s a much more common disorder among children. In fact, there are an ever-increasing number of cases among the younger generation, and experts predict that 1 in every 68 children will have an autism spectrum disorder in the coming years. It’s a staggering statistic considering that the prevalence of ASD is estimated to be around 40% among young children.

Are You Looking to Adopt or Become a Foster Parent?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already thinking about becoming a foster parent or adoption parent. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many questions about parenthood to the forefront, but it’s also provided prospective parents with a wealth of opportunities. After months spent in lockdown, people are eager to get back out there and start a family. It’s a sentiment that extends beyond just those planning to adopt or foster – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even older siblings have expressed an interest in taking on a child or sibling group. There are still plenty of children in need of homes, and with careful planning and screening, prospective parents can make sure their kids are matched with a suitable guardian.

Signs Your Baby Might Have Autism

Autism is not always easy to spot. While there are certain behavioral tics and symptoms that can help your baby’s nurse or pediatrician make the diagnosis, most parents will simply have to watch their baby closely and catch any signs of developmental problems. It’s a good idea to get help from an autism specialist experienced in infant diagnostics, as well as an experienced parent who’s open to the idea of having a child with special needs. If you’re still in doubt, it’s never easy to find out the truth about your baby’s health, but with careful observation and some professional help, you might just be able to piece together the puzzle that is your child’s development.

What are the Signs of Autism in Babies?

While it’s not always easy to tell for certain whether or not your baby has autism, there are certain behaviors and signs that might suggest the disorder. Below is a short list of some of the more common developmental issues that could be a sign of autism in babies.

  • A lack of social skills, particularly during a parent-child bonding session
  • Shy or anxiety-ridden behaviors
  • Difficulty with eye contact
  • Excessive crying or fretfulness
  • Refuses to laugh or smile
  • Lack of interest in other children
  • No obvious favorite toy or color
  • No interest in other aspects of life, such as going to the park or experiencing new things
  • Frequent tantrums or meltdowns
  • Doesn’t respond to their name
  • Uses repetitive phrases or words
  • Thinks in their head – i.e. ‘abber’, ‘rattle’, or ‘measure’ when asking about size
  • Uses one-word answers
  • Has trouble understanding basic instructions such as ‘sit still’ or ‘stop crying’

If you’re looking to add a child to your family, particularly an infant, be sure to consult with a pediatrician or an experienced parent who’s open to the idea of adopting a child with special needs. It might be a good idea to wait until your baby is a little older before bringing them to a new parent-child interaction session, as some behaviors, such as crying or fussiness, might be a normal part of the transition to parenthood for the first few months. Make sure to observe your baby closely over the course of a day and catch any signs of developmental delays. You can also contact the Autism Society of America to find a local support group or an experienced autism specialist in your area. While there is no cure for autism, early detection and treatment can make a world of difference in your baby’s life.

Do You Have a Child Who Might Be on the Autism Spectrum?

If you have a child who is beginning to show signs of developmental delays or has already been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, there are still opportunities for you to have a happy and fulfilling life together. The best thing you can do for your children is to be there for them and be open to the idea of adding a new member to your family. While many people with ASDs find it difficult to socialize, adjust to new situations, and learn new things, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a wide range of abilities among those with ASDs and that many can lead successful and independent lives. Many also attain high degrees of education and become incredibly successful in careers that they enjoy. It’s never easy to find out what’s going on with your baby, but with careful observation and some professional help, you might just be able to piece together the puzzle that is their development.