Common early traits of ASD & ADHD Diagnosis

As parents and carers, it can be difficult to observe our child’s development and know what this should look like for their age, and when we might want to seek more advice.

The amazing founder and head psychologist at Mind Movers Psychology, Jaimie Bloch has provided her expert guidance in this resource about:

Mind Movers Psychology specialise in helping parents, children and families reach their full potential by providing a safe space to learn the skills and mindset to feel empowered and connected in their lives.

Early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):

It is important to know that Autism symptoms fluctuate throughout an individual’s lifetime and are dependent on their everyday stressors and environment. Autism relates to different interpretations and responses to social interactions, experiences with sensory input, strong and restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. 

Some early signs to look for in young children, but not limited include: 

  • Walking on their toes after the age of 2
  • Rigid and literal thinking
  • Poor eye contact
  • Delayed speech and language development
  • Sensitivity to sounds or textures
  • Sensory interests such as staring at lights
  • Repetitive behaviours such as flapping hands, twisting their fingers and/or rocking their body
  • Restricted interests which interfere with their ability to carry out everyday activities
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty with toilet training
  • Emotional sensitivity to trivial changes in daily routines
  • Not responding to their name
  • Minimal interest in interacting with other children with a preference to play alone
  • Minimal pretend play
  • Minimal shared enjoyment and joint attention
  • Playing with parts of toys rather than the whole toy and not playing with toys as they are intended to
  • Not understanding emotions in themselves or others
  • Limited facial expressions or inappropriate facial expressions in certain situations
  • Echoing what you say to them
  • Repeating the same phrases 

Early signs of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):

ADHD has 3 subtypes: hyperactivity/Impulsive, Inattentive and Combined. The symptoms will look different between the 3 types and can also look different between the sexes. 

Some main signs to look for but not limited to (does not need to meet all criteria but a certain amount):

  • Difficulty listening and paying attention across home and school
  • Disruptive and struggles to wait their turn and may often blurt out answers 
  • Issues with memory: forgetful, losing items and misplacing things 
  • Careless mistakes
  • Difficulty sustaining attention during play or in tasks they don’t enjoy
  • Struggles to follow through on instructions or complete homework/tasks
  • Has difficulty in organising tasks (sequencing, chunking,  poor time management
  • Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort 
  • Fidgets, squirms, taps their leg constantly 
  • Restless (could look like not being able to stay seated or climbing when an inappropriate time)
  • Finds it hard to sit still 
  • Interrupts and intrudes on others’ space and conversations

What to do once you have noticed your child meets some of the symptoms:

Why is an assessment needed?

The purpose of assessments is to identify how your child’s brain is functioning. It can help identify and define their cognitive strengths and weaknesses and give you as a parent, the school as well as your child more insight into their symptoms and why they are manifesting. and It will also help a clinician begin to develop and outline a plan to not only support your child but help them remove the barriers that stop them from unlocking their emotional and cognitive potential.

An assessment is useful to help identify the ‘why’ behind your child’s challenges and symptoms. It can also support a diagnosis which can be useful in better understanding your child and finding the right support services and treatment options. For a child, assessments can be very beneficial in creating support at school and at home, applying for special provisions through the school and also if needed applying for NDIS. 

Once you have identified, or a teacher has begun to notice that your child meets the symptoms checklist, or you meet some but are unsure the next step is to go and see your GP or paediatrician if you have a regular person you have seen for your child since they were born. A GP would be providing you with a referral to explore diagnosis, they are unable to assess and diagnose. If you are hesitant and unsure about testing you can book in to see your paediatrician. A paediatrician can do an in-depth developmental milestone assessment and help identify if there is a need for further testing. 

Who should I go to once I’ve noticed these symptoms?

A psychiatrist, psychologist and paediatrician can assess and diagnose both ADHD and ASD. However, a psychologist will not only diagnose but provide you with a detailed recommendation plan for support, and the next steps for home, school and other potential services to help with intervention. A psychologist can also support a school in developing any learning plans that will be utilised and developed as part of the support for the child once they have been assessed. 

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