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#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek: Identifying children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek: Identifying children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Children's Mental Health Week

Day 2

Identifying Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a diagnosis that includes delays in social interaction and communication and repetitive patterns of behavior. ASD starts early in development but symptoms might not always be obvious until later in life.

Signs of ASD related to social interaction/communication include:

Delays in back-and-forth interaction like,

  • Difficulty with back-and-forth conversation
  • Difficulty initiating social interaction (not pointing or showing items to others)
  • Delays in nonverbal communication like difficulty making or keeping eye contact
  • Limited or inconsistent facial expressions
  • Limited use of gesturessmiling young girl with pencil on face

Delays in developing or maintaining relationships such as,

  • Difficulty making friends or playing with other children
  • Delays in pretend play

Signs of ASD related to repetitive behavior include:

  • Repetitive motor movements such as hand flapping, spinning in circles, bouncing repeatedly; repetitive use of objects, such as lining up toys or focusing on the parts of toys; and/or repetitive speech patterns
  • Showing a strong preference for particular routines or difficulty responding to change in routines
  • Unusual or very strong interests
  • Sensory issues including 1) sensitivities, such as covering ears in response to loud noises, and/or 2) sensory seeking behavior, such as a tendency to look at items closely or feel items.

For the majority of individuals with ASD, the exact cause is unknown. Since there are no blood tests, brain scans, or similar medical tests that can identify ASD, evaluations for ASD focus on behavior. ASD can be diagnosed starting as young as 18 months. Early identification and treatment of ASD results in improved long-term outcomes for children.

Pediatricians play a crucial role in the early identification of children with ASD. If you have concerns about ASD, please start by talking with your pediatrician to request a screening and/or a referral for a more in-depth evaluation with a psychologist or developmental behavioral pediatrician.child and doctor

Best-practice evaluations for ASD include looking at 1) signs of ASD based on caregiver report and direct observation of the child, 2) developmental history, 3) the child’s developmental or intellectual functioning, 4) the child’s ability to complete daily living activities and 5) the child’s behavioral functioning. Results should include information about the diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Receiving an ASD diagnosis can be a big experience for families, but it can also be the first step toward making a treatment plan that fits your child best. Like many things, knowledge is power in helping your child reach their full potential.

The Autism Center at Children’s Hospital offers comprehensive diagnostic evaluations. For more information, please go to our website, or contact our office at 504-896-7272.

Kamps JodiJodi Kamps, PhD

Dr. Jodi Kamps is a psychologist at The Autism Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. She earned her PhD in Clinical Child Psychology from the University of Kansas and went on to complete her internship in child and pediatric psychology at the University of Florida Health Sciences Center and her postdoctoral fellowship at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. With more than 18 years of experience, Dr. Kamps enjoys working with families and answering their questions to best help their children.

Fun Facts

  • Jodi has worked at Children’s Hospital since 2002
  • Is originally from Delaware – home of tax-free shopping and the current president
  • Loves to participate in Mardi Gras as a member of the Krewe of Muses
  • Is excited to see all of the creative house floats for this year’s Mardi Gras
  • Normally loves to travel, but this year, has rediscovered the joy of reading and spending time outdoors with her two children