Berlin (dpa) – Small children who resist when parents try to cuddle them may be displaying a form of autism. Another sign of autism is avoiding eye contact with familiar people.
”Autism is often hard to recognize. It can easily be confused with delayed development or other problems, such as a speech disorder,” said Monika Niehaus, a spokeswoman with Germany’s Professional Association of Children’s and Young People’s Physicians.
It is common for autistic children to hardly speak until the age of 15 months and only in two-word sentences at 2 years of age.
”But, in contrast to children with a speech disorder, autistic children don’t try to communicate with gestures and facial expressions,” Niehaus noted. ”In some cases they repeat what they hear without showing understanding.”
An early diagnosis is important so that an autistic child can receive special developmental assistance as soon as possible. Parents should therefore tell the child’s paediatrician about any behaviour they find peculiar.
”This includes, for instance, a 1-year-old not responding when parents repeatedly call the child’s name, or when pain doesn’t make the child cry or the child shows no fear,” Niehaus said.
A child who performs repetitive movements or shows interest only for individual parts of a toy may also be autistic, she added.