In recognition of Autism Awareness Month in April, NBC4 Southern California “Today in LA” Anchor Daniella Guzman shares important information that every parent should know in a Public Service Announcement airing on both stations throughout the month.
According to AbilityFirst, a Pasadena-based nonprofit organizations that provides services to children and adults with disabilities, one of the most common characteristics of autism, and one of the most difficult to overcome, is difficulty with social interactions. The organization's afterschool program focuses on increasing participants’ socialization skills though center-based and community settings.
Group activities focus on developing social skills through play by practicing and reinforcing behaviors with peers, for example, taking turns during an activity, asking to join a game, the natural give and take during conversations, and finding common interests with peers.
In AbilityFirst employment preparation programs, these social skills are translated to the workplace by working with individuals on such things as giving and accepting feedback, professionalism and connecting with coworkers. Preparation, socialization, communication, education – all leading to helping people achieve their personal best. More information can be found at www.abilityfirst.org.
According to The Help Group, a nonprofit based the San Fernando Valley, Autism Spectrum Disorder, commonly referred to as autism, is a group of brain-based developmental disabilities characterized by impaired social communication and interaction, and restricted, repetitive behaviors, interests or activities.
Below are early warning signs to look for in a young child's development. For more details and support, visit www.thehelpgroup.org.
By 4 Months of Age
• Does not make eye contact or makes little eye contact
• Does not seem interested in other people
• Does not show as much interest in people as objects
• Does not react by looking at people when they are making “social sounds,” such as humming or clapping
• Does not have a social smile (does not smile back at someone who smiles at them)
• Does not show interest in watching people’s faces
By 12 Months of Age
• Does not combine eye contact with smiling
• Does not babble (or the babble doesn’t sound like “talking”)
• Does not look where another person is pointing
• Does not try to engage other people in what he or she is looking at or doing
• Does not engage in interactive gestures, such as giving, showing or reaching for parents
• Does not respond when his or her name is called
• Does not show a caring or concerned reaction to other people crying or in distress
• Does not use gestures, such as waving “hi” or “bye,” or use the index finger to point
By 24 Months of Age
• Does not look toward an object that is pointed to
• Does not point to share interests with others, such as pointing to an appealing toy
• Does not imitate common activities of others, such as sweeping the floor
• Does not learn simple, new interactive routines
• Does not develop pretend or make-believe play, such as feeding a doll
• Does not use single words by 16 months
• Does not spontaneously use meaningful two-word phrases (“go car” or “look doggie”) by 24 months
Other Early Signs
• Experiences a significant loss of language or social skills that he or she once had
• Echoes what others say (echolalia) without regular spontaneous speech
• Demonstrates speech that sounds mechanical, almost robotic
• Uses limited or atypical facial expressions
• Prefers to play alone or does not show interest in other children
• May not enjoy cuddling or being touched, unless it is on his or her own terms
• Displays repetitive body movements (hand flapping, spinning)
• Fixates upon a single object, such as a spoon or book
• Cannot tolerate change in routine or environment, such as a new toothbrush or a replacement for a lost toy
• Increased or decreased sensitivity to sensory experiences (light, texture, sound, taste, smell, movement)
• Lines items up or puts things in order repeatedly
• Has excessive tantrums and is difficult to console
• Walks on tiptoes
• Unusual eating & sleeping habits
• Gives unrelated answers to questions