According to recent studies from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, approximately two and a half percent of children, in the United States, have autism spectrum disorder, which equates to 1 in 68 children. Studies have shown that autism is more common in boys than girls, as 1 in every 42 boys are born with autism, compared to 1 in every 68 girls for girls.
Children born with autism struggle to engage in social activities and have a harder time relating to their peers. They will also experience the world in a very different way than those who do not have the disorder.
Autism cannot be identified on brain scanners, blood tests or common physical exams. However, in most cases, analyzing the behavior of the child is the most effective way of identifying this disorder. Children with autism will have difficulties with communication and interaction, have very specific interests and repetitive behaviors.
That being said, parents should be aware that simply because their child is an introvert, it does not mean that he or she has autism. It is important for parents not to jump to conclusions either. Isolated symptoms don't always mean a child has autism, it can simply mean that he is shy. In any case, if there is ever a worry about a child's development, it is best to consult a specialist.
Here is a list of 15 medical conditions that people have mistaken for autism.
15 A Child May Have An Intellectual Disability
It is common for parents to have mistaken intellectual disabilities with autism. Actually, there is a reason for this common error. Studies have shown that 75% of people with autism have an IQ below 70. However, just because a child or adult may have a lower IQ, does not mean he or she has autism.
Autism can also be found in children where a speech or intellectual delay is hardly noticed.
In fact, 25% of those children have a normal or even above average IQ scores. Intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, are quite more common in children, than autism. If a child has a language delay, for example, parents should first consider, and discuss with a licensed specialist, the possibilities of a language disorder or intellectual disability.
14 A Child May Have Selective Mutism
Until a high-functioning child is 3 years old, it may be tricky to identify a difficulty in communication. However, as they age, parents will have a better understanding and explanations of certain social behaviors, such as, how their child relates and interacts with others. For example, it is possible for parents to notice that their child, although able to fully communicate at home, may have a harder time around strangers or new environments. It is common for people to think that they are shy or, in a more serious case, suffers from autism.
In addition, it is possible that a child may suffer from selective mutism, which is an anxiety disorder that makes a child go silent when they are uncomfortable. Kids with autism, on the other hand, will struggle in social situations in general, whether they are comfortable or not.
13 A Child May Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
As a child gets older, parents will start to notice some repetitive behavior. For example, he is erasing his homework over and over, cleaning his hands time and time again, and will go back to redo it shortly thereafter, when there is no need.
Although many parents see this repetition as a sign of autism, there are higher chances that he or she has an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Just like adults with the disorder, a child will struggle to not think about their obsession and it will feel that something terrible may happen if they don't follow this ritual, although they can not express what would happen if they stop. It is common for children, and adults alike, feel embarrassed or confused when the opportunity of discussing arises. A child with OCD will also have difficulties concentrating and making the right decisions. Their daily tasks will also take longer than most. For example, getting dressed.
12 A Child May Have A Developmental Disorder
When a child presents signs of certain developmental disorders, especially with language and communication in general, it’s common for parents to be under the impression that their child has autism.
Children with developmental disabilities will have difficulties with some activities that are common for kids at that same age. For example, crawling, walking and sitting up may be difficult for them. In addition, talking will also come with a delay.
If a child is diagnosed with developmental delays, there are several treatments that will help them. They may be followed by a specialist and parents will be constantly asked to stimulate the child. Those stimulations may come at therapy, but at home and, in case of an older child, at school.
However, if parents feel their child has a developmental delay, it is important to speak with a doctor, as this will affect their daily lives.
11 A Child May Have A Reactive Attachment Disorder
As we know, a child with autism is portrayed as someone who has difficulties with social skills and communication. However, it is common for other disorders to also affect the social skills, which are often mistaken for autism. In this case, a child may be suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder.
This is a rare and serious disorder, that will cause a child to have issues bonding with parents or people who care for them.
It normally happens in cases of extreme neglect, when the child didn’t have the proper attention, love, the comfort he or she needed, or the child may not feel safe in his or her current environment.
On a positive note, RAD can be treated, so it is important to pay attention to certain signs. Above all, if the signs and symptoms of RAD are there, it is important that the child is evaluated by a specialist who will confirm this disorder.
10 A Child May Have Avoidant Personality
This is a very rare disorder and only affects 1% of the population. It also affects social skills and a child will often feel rejected. In addition, he or she may have social inhibition, inadequacy and will have difficulties dealing with criticism. A child will find it very difficult to interact with other children or adults, and that is why it triggers the scare of autism for parents.
Indeed, both autism and avoidant personalities look very similar at first. In both cases, the child will avoid eye contact, have difficulties developing social skills, will need a routine and have self-esteem issues.
However, there is a crucial difference. While a child is born with autism, the avoidance personality is caused by traumatic situations. It can be triggered, for example, when a child is separated from his or her parents in an abrupt manner.
9 A Child May Have Difficulties Focusing Or Concentrating
Some parents will notice that their child has a severe difficulty when he or she is trying to concentrate and focus on one activity at a time. Since issues with concentration are one of the main symptoms of autism, this is one of the first signs doctors, parents, and teachers notice. However, as in every sign, difficulties concentrating may be brought on by other issues that waiting to be diagnosed.
According to researchers, 18% of children have difficulties concentrating.
Most of them have an incredible amount of energy and will constantly be on the move, changing from one activity to another. While others will have a tough time standing still, even when they are seated. Above all, there is another group of those with difficulties concentrating that will make them daze out and live in their imagination.
Even if a child doesn’t have autism, it is import not to ignore the attention issues, since it can cause problems in the future. As in the other signs, parents should look for a specialist who will give them the best ways to proceed.
8 A Child May Have Learning Disabilities
Approximately 4 in every 10 children with autism have some kind of learning disability. It is common that children with this disability have problems controlling their behaviors, in various situations and will have a tough time interacting with other people.
However, learning disabilities doesn't mean that a child has autism. In fact, 1 in 100 people has an IQ under 10, which means there is an issue that needs to be addressed. These children will have a limited capacity when dealing with new and more complex information. Since learning skills, even those it is a daily routine will also be challenging, they will be more dependent on adults or professionals.
As each case is different, the level of dependency varies. It is also important to highlight that if a child has a specific difficulty (such as dyslexia, for example), it doesn't mean he or she has a learning disability.
7 A Child May Have Narrowed Interests
It is common for children with autism to display a very specific interest. It can be for common things such as cars, maps, games, a specific cartoon. But, they may be unusually interested in ceiling fans or ladders, for example.
While having an interest in a certain object can sound harmless, in cases of autism, those interests will be borderline obsessive, in addition to issues with social interactions.
It will interfere with their quality of life since they won’t be able to focus on other things.
If a child asks his or her parents to watch Frozen five times a day, it is not a sign of autism. In some cases, special interest can be a good thing as it builds a social life and develops other skills.
6 A Child May Read Early On Or Have A High Intelligence
Every parent celebrates their child’s achievements and, indeed, these achievements make them special. Their first steps and their first words are all exciting factors for parents. However, when a child reads too early, many parents worry as it can be a sign of autism.
This is known as hyperlexia. This is when a child reads too early, which can occur in children with autism. A child may have had a deep interest in letters and numbers, but later, they will prove themselves to have an outstanding memory and remembering things. For example, a child may remember license plates, phone numbers, birthdays, etc.
However, not all children with hyperlexia have autism. Some children will simply read earlier than others, and there is nothing wrong with that. When other children will begin to read, the gap between them will fade away. In the meantime, parents should embrace the love of reading their child may possess.
5 A Child May Have A Sensory Processing Disorder
Some children are extremely sensitive to light, touch, and sound. That means that those senses are stronger for them than in other people. For example, they will be easily disturbed by light or physical contact, like a hug. This is called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) that, for a long time, was associated with autism and considered a symptom.
However, recent studies have classified sensory or sensory processing as a different disorder and are not signs of autism - although one child may have both of them.
Children with SPD can show an intolerance to different textures and can't stand how some clothes can feel when it touches their skin. The same thing happens to the texture of certain foods. In addition, children with SPD can also be very clumsy and bump into people and objects very often.
4 A Child May Have A Genetic Disorder
It is not rare for children with Down Syndrome or Tuberous Sclerosis to have autism. But, it is also common for people, with other genetic disorders, are wrongly diagnosed with autism.
In 2013, a study developed by the Cognitive Analysis and Brain Imaging Laboratory (CABIL), concluded that 50% of children with a disorder called "22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome" were misdiagnosed with autism. This syndrome and autism have similar symptoms such as difficulties with communication and delayed speech.
Although they have similarities, having the right diagnosis will allow the parents to look for the most suitable therapy and treatment for their child. The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome also causes cardiac anomalies, weakened immune systems and malformations of the head and neck and the roof of the mouth, or palate.
3 A Child May Have Lead Poisoning
It may sound out of this world that a child has lead poisoning, however, it is not rare. Metals can be found in paint, cosmetics, pipes, ceramics, batteries, and gasoline - so we are in contact with metal on daily basis.
However, for children, the contamination can occur when a child drinks water with lead particles or eats paint chips from toys.
The outcome can be very severe as the child can have permanent brain dysfunctions, learning difficulties, behavioral disorders, attention deficit and developmental delay. Sometimes, parents return home with an autism diagnosis. However, it can also happen the other way around. Having the right diagnosis is crucial in getting the right treatments that are beneficial for a child's development and quality of life.
2 A Child May Have A Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
In this case, children will seem okay until they reach 2 years old. However, there is a severe regression in their development and they will start losing certain skills such as walking and talking, in just a few short months. A child will also lose interest in the world around and have repetitive motor mannerisms. Researchers have not been able to find what causes this disorder.
There is a strong similarity to autism, especially as it affects social skills and, in some cases, it’s considered a low-functioning form of autism.
There are no specific medications for this disorder. However, there are medications that will help certain symptoms, such as seizures. However, there are behavioral and environmental therapies that will help a child’s development.Unfortunately, there is a lot of controversy regarding these treatments.
1 And The List Goes On
The research on autism has grown a lot since it was first diagnosed in 1944. At first, it was common to mistaken autism with deafness or an intellectual delay. There are several other syndromes that look like autism and can be tricky for parents, and even specialists, to determine it at first. For example, Cornelia DeLange Syndrome, Tourette’s Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, William’s Syndrome, Down’s Syndrome and Landau-Kleffner Syndrome just to name a few.
It is also important to stress that it’s possible to have autism and another syndrome.
An autistic child can, for example, have Down Syndrome. Parents should be aware of their child's behaviors. If a child is not responding well to the first round of medication or treatment, ask for a second opinion.