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Ginger, Volunteer Mentor (@gingerw)

Issues with autism diagnosis and perception

Autism (ASD) | Last Active: Aug 9, 2022 | Replies (15)

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My as yet very small granddaughter seems different to me. She will not allow herself to be picked up by anyone except the three family members she sees every day. Is it possible to diagnose autism in someone so small?

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Replies to "My as yet very small granddaughter seems different to me. She will not allow herself to..."

These past 2 1/2 years have been immensely challenging for families as they have navigated the world with Covid. Many parents have kept their circles very small to protect their children, which has affected development of social skills.

All children develop at different rates and in different ways. So a child who tends to be timid or too easily over-stimulated may have a more difficult time adapting to a widening circle of people. This is normal, especially among children from 6 months to 2 years. The fact that the child allows familiar people to pick her up is encouraging.

Rather than try to pick up a reluctant child, a good technique is to sit quietly near her, maybe offering a toy or beginning to read a simple book aloud. If she creeps nearer, make eye contact and follow her lead in engaging, maybe with facial expression or saying her name. Eventually, you may have a little one offering a toy, sitting next to you, engaging. This might take several visits with a very shy child.

If, on the other hand, she refuses to make eye contact or interact even with her 3 familiar adults, there could be cause for concern. Then they should be having her screened for hearing, vision, social development, etc.

But let me offer a different possibility. My daughter and son-in-law, parents of 2 small boys, had very limited in person interaction with their long-time social circle during Covid. This is a group where the parents have known one another for 20+ years, all became first-time parents in their mid-late 30's. This summer they have begun gathering again for day activities and weekend outings. Their boys, ages 3 & 6, often spend the first 20-30 minutes of each gathering hanging on to their parents or sitting on their laps. So do several other kids.

My daughter and son-in-law have been totally relieved to learn that the issues they are having with their kids – delayed socialization, anxiety around unfamiliar people, etc – are common among their friends' kids as well. And that their own feelings of fatigue, anxiety & being overwhelmed are universal among their friends. We as grandparents kept telling them they were doing fine, but there is nothing like being with people going through the same.

Can you tell us a little more about your granddaughter, age family situation, etc?

@bubbles1939 Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect! You ask about signs of autism in a young child.

There can be several factors at play here. How old is your granddaughter now? If she does not have regular social interaction with people other than the three family members she sees everyday, it is possible she is uncomfortable around anyone else, related or not.

From the autism speak website, here is an article you might find enlightening: https://www.autismspeaks.org/signs-autism

I will be interested to hear your thoughts after reading the article!