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Autism Spectrum Disorders: Parents Guide to Recognizing Signs


For a lot of parents, learning that your child has a spectrum disorder can be a very difficult realization to accept. Unfortunately, for some, learning a child has a disability can be as traumatizing as the death of a family member or close friend. Many parents may have seen the signs, noticed something that may have suggested their child does not process things the way other children do in their age group, i.e., do not respond to his/her name, difficulty understanding the feelings of others, avoids eye contact, etc. Only after the signs have become too difficult to ignore do many parents seek a formal evaluation of their child. Typically, once a formal evaluation has been conducted and a diagnosis made are parents genuinely stunned by the news. Confirming, suspicious of a delay or spectrum disorder can produce overwhelming emotions of shock, disbelief, anxiety, anger, fear, and despair. A lot of parents struggle with the belief their child will be stigmatized, treated differently, will not have a “normal” childhood, etc.

For some parents, just trying to comprehend the disparity between their dreams and aspirations for their children and the disability/abled differently compounds their emotional and psychological efforts to adjust to the situation. Many parents will experience a range of mixed emotions including but not limited to shock, disbelief, fear, and even anger. feelings of sadness, loss, shame, fear, etc. Some may question what they may have done to “cause” their child’s diagnosis, harbor thoughts of “why me”, question if they are being punished, was there something they could have done to prevent their child’s diagnosis, etc.

Signs Your Child May have an ASD Include:

·         May avoid direct eye contact

·         Tend to self-isolate

·         Experience delays in speech and language skills

·         Have trouble understanding the feelings of others or conveying their own

·         Not respond to their name by 12 months of age

·         Repetitive use of words or phrases

·         Flap their arms, rock their body, or move in circles

·         Appear hypersensitive to sounds, smells, lights, etc.

·         Does not like change

·         Difficulty establishing or building relationships with others

·         Does not point at objects when requested

·         Shows no interest in things usually associated with age

·         Have obsessive interests

Early signs of ASD usually are present in a child’s ability and or inability to socialize with his/her peers. Social issues are one of the most common symptoms in all Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). People with an ASD usually exhibit recognizing social cues, understanding personal spacing and boundaries, understanding the others feelings, etc. They do not have just social “challenges” like shyness, which can be managed using self-confidence building techniques, learning assertiveness skills, etc.  The social issues they have often cause serious problems in everyday life.

Signs Your Child May Have Social Issues Related to ASD Include:

·         Prefers to play alone

·         Avoids, dislikes, or resists physical contact

·         Has difficulty identifying and understanding the feelings of others

·         Does not understand personal spacing and boundaries

·         Displays flat or inappropriate facial expressions

·         Avoids eye-contact

·         Difficulty being comforted when upset

·         Does not respond to name by 12 months of age

·         Interacts with others specifically to achieve a desired goal

Other Symptoms of ASD May Include:

·         Aggressive behavior

·         Impulsivity

·         Prone to tantrums

·         Unusual eating and sleeping habits

·         Lack of fear pertaining to things typically associated with danger

·         Short attention span

·         Mood instability

·         Hyperactivity

·         Unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

Parents of children with ASD/abled differently are encourage to identify and acknowledge their personal feelings about their child’s diagnosis. Parent understanding and participation in their child’s learning and development make a significant impact on the way in which children view themselves and cope with challenges. Parents are encouraged to readily admit to unknowns and uncertainty about the child’s diagnosis, consistently striving to seek clarification, understanding, and answers to inquiries.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Parents Guide to Recognizing Signs

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2017). Autism Spectrum Disorders: Parents Guide to Recognizing Signs. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jan 2017
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