As a caregiver, you want the best for your child, but sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s going on in their brain. Children with autism may struggle with learning or intellectual disabilities or experience developmental delays. Understanding these challenges and working with your child as they grow can help them succeed.
So how does autism affect childhood development? Your child’s place on the autism spectrum may impact how they learn. However, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) differs from other potentially co-occurring conditions. Regardless of your child’s diagnosis or learning needs, we can help you get answers about their development.
What Is Autism?
Autism begins in the
First, we’ll examine what ASD is and why it looks or feels different for everyone. Autism begins in the brain, and its symptoms and defining characteristics exist on a spectrum, meaning that it can develop and be expressed in many different ways. Children with autism may show various behaviors at any point in their development, including:
- Communication issues
- Repeated actions or phrases
- Adhering to a strict routine or ritual
- Sensory discomfort
While behaviors and psychological symptoms are often used to identify potential cases of ASD in children, ASD also often comes with a myriad of physical symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems, sleeping disorders, mood disorders, seizures, and forms of anxiety.
Autism is not an intellectual disability, which is a separate diagnosis. Intellectual disabilities are much rarer than autism and can leave a child with a much lower cognitive ability than their peers, causing difficulties with reasoning, math, decision making, and problem solving. Autism is also not a learning disability, which typically refers to conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and ADD. However, children on the spectrum may also be diagnosed with either an intellectual disability or a learning disability.
Symptoms and Behaviors of People With Autism
On a more complex level, symptoms and behaviors linked to autism exist on a spectrum because specific cases reveal specific strengths and weaknesses. Common weaknesses include the inability to grasp ‘big picture’ concepts, with a focus on details and individual parts rather than the whole, as well as social and psychological concepts such as regulating and controlling thoughts and emotions, and controlling behavior (executive function). Children with autism often possess humor and empathy, yet may struggle to display it, or struggle with concepts surrounding emotion and humor.
Defining Child Development
So how does autism affect development? Everyone with autism experiences its symptoms differently. At the same time, every child develops at a unique rate, regardless of their neurodiversity. Most neurotypical children follow an established sequence of formative skill-building, which typically includes:
- Gross and fine motor function
- Social interaction
Identifying patterns and behaviors linked to ASD within this timeline helps us understand your child’s developmental needs. Children with ASD may display sensory sensitivity or speech delays as early as 12 months. The most common signs of developmental delays for children on the autism spectrum include:
- Language acquisition delays
- Avoiding eye contact
- Not responding to their name
- Repetitive movements or behaviors
- Little interest in communication
- Empathy challenges
Autism slows child development, but the rate at which it affects child development varies. Because every case differs, your child may not show definitive signs of developmental delays until later in life. Similarly, some children show multiple characteristics of autism, and others may only live with one or two. A child with ASD may be semiverbal or nonverbal but have excellent coherence skills. Others may struggle with putting together details while feeling comfortable with social and verbal interactions.
How Does Autism Affect Learning?
Autism is not a learning disability, but it may affect your child’s experience in a classroom. Depending on your child’s specific challenges, they may struggle with focus, sensory activities or communication. However, they may excel in lessons on numbers, letters, shapes or concepts requiring attention to detail. If your child is falling behind on core concepts, they may benefit from pediatric therapy for developmental delays.
Identifying Weaknesses and Teaching Key Skills
ASD is identified early on in screening tests done on all children during regular checkups. Once confirmed and diagnosed, it’s a good idea to schedule appointments with an expert on ASD to assess
ASD is identified early on in screening tests done on all children during regular checkups. Once confirmed and diagnosed, it’s a good idea to schedule appointments with an expert on ASD to assess developmental issues and identify issues that need to be addressed through intervention.
Early intervention for children on the spectrum can lead to marked improvements on all levels, from improving communication to behavioral control and planning. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a particularly effective tool in helping reinforce techniques that seem to help a child understand concepts they have trouble with.
How Autism Affects Development Is Not Predictable
There is no strict timeline for how a child on the spectrum improves, or exactly how far behind they will be in matters of development. Autism naturally differs by case. Though autism may impact one child’s development, others may not notice the signs until later. Early intervention can help make the greatest difference, but it can’t be said how much of a difference that will be. It’s important to discuss these factors with a psychiatrist.
At Spectrum of Hope, we offer development delay therapy for kids with room to grow. We provide early intervention services to increase their confidence, teach new skills and mitigate challenges. We approach developmental delays with a personalized plan to help improve positive behaviors in and out of the classroom.
ASD Therapy Presents Opportunities for Growth
What research can tell us is that there’s plenty of hope when it comes to how children with ASD progress. This progress can be measured in part by how children adapt to weaknesses identified years prior, through intervention and schooling. While it’s difficult to predict where a diagnosis of ASD will go, children on the spectrum do adapt over time, especially with treatment.
We know that treatment works. We know that starting interventions for ASD early in children yields better results. We know that, while outcomes will differ and symptoms vary greatly, children adapt over time. We know that skills that might be nonexistent at first can be taught, with consistent and effective teaching methods.
But we still lack the research to promote specific approaches and determine what kind of an approach yields the most progress for any given case. ASD is still an incredibly complex disorder, and one with plenty of mysteries. But it’s a disorder that can be addressed, treated, and lived with.
Spectrum of Hope Offers Developmental Delay Therapy for Kids
Childhood development is not always a straight timeline, and children with autism may experience life in ways that are difficult to understand. With appropriate developmental therapy, you can help your child learn and grow into adulthood. Our approach focuses on personalized strategies and goals so your child gets what they need throughout their development.
Choose Spectrum of Hope, and you can access high-quality developmental delay therapy for kids in Texas. Reach out online or call 281-894-1423 for more information!