Autism is a condition that affects a child’s ability to bond, play or master basic tasks or skills. It affects each child differently and may be mild or severe. According to statistics, 1 out of every 88 children has autism or autism-like disorders. Child care providers are often the first professionals in a child’s life to notice development delays or behavior concerns.
Many children with autism may have other conditions such as mental retardation, seizure disorders, anxiety/mood disorders, sleep problems, eating problems or attention deficits/hyperactivity. A trained doctor or psychologist diagnoses autism by observing a child’s communication, behavior and developmental levels. There is presently no known cause or cure for autism.
Red flags for autism:
- Oversensitivity to light, sounds, touch
- Prefers to be alone; is not interested in other children
- Avoids eye contact; looks away while listening
- Does not smile when smiled at
- Plays with objects instead of another person; is in own world
- Spins objects or self
- Echoes same words
- Holds objects that provide a sense of safety
- Does certain things “early” but also has delayed basic skills
- Does not share interests or enjoyment
- Has intense tantrums or is hyperactive, uncooperative or oppositional
- Does not respond to name
- Cannot express wants and needs
- Language is delayed
- Does not follow directions
- Appears deaf at times
Early intervention by caring, supportive people is crucial for children with autism. If you have questions or concerns about a child, contact the Child Care Council’s Inclusion Project that helps children with special needs in the child care setting (see below).
- Inclusion Project To ensure successful experiences in child care, the Child Care Council’s Inclusion Project offers support to parents and child care professionals who have children requiring special accommodations in a child care setting. For more information, contact Ange Burnett, Inclusion Project Coordinator, (925) 676-5442 ext. 3113, or e-mail
- 2007 Autism Spectrum Disorder Resource Guide assists parents who have a young child recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to understand and research the services their child might need. Available in English and Spanish from Contra Costa Health Services. www.cchealth.org/groups/ddc/resource_guide.php
- Learn the Signs. Act Early. website provides information about childhood developmental milestones and delays. You’ll be able to track the developmental milestones a child should be reaching, see how milestones change as a child grows, and download fact sheets on developmental milestones for children from 3 months to 5 years, along with information on developmental screening and developmental disabilities. www.cdc.gov/actearly
- Autism Information Center from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides resources for families and professionals. www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/