Social Interaction in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Recognizing Early Signs of Autism
It would be beneficial if understanding autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their signs were part of our academic education at all levels. This knowledge, perhaps more useful than some currently taught subjects, could replace less relevant content in the curriculum.
Social interaction, in both young people and adults, allows us to discuss various topics, thus creating the foundations of our social relationships. This interaction occurs when talking to someone, sending a message, or reacting to one received, and it is here where we develop what is known as social intelligence.
In childhood, our physical and cognitive development is proportionally more accelerated than in adulthood. For example, a baby is born with approximately 50 centimeters in height and grows about 24 centimeters during their first year. This growth rate slows down in the second year, with the child growing only half as much, around 12 centimeters. This is why decreased appetite appears; they need fewer nutrients and food for growth. In girls, we observe an interesting process related to their follicles or oocytes, rapidly decreasing in number from the fetal stage to menarche or first menstruation. As a curious fact, girls start with about 6 million primitive follicles used in fetal development, but only about 2,600 of these remain at the end of pregnancy before birth. They continue to use them during childhood, but in puberty, about 100 of them wake up and become reproductive follicles, leaving only about 40,000 mature follicles. Each month during menstruation, they will lose about 1,200 of them, and once exhausted, menopause will appear. These changes in physical and biological development are parallel to a very particular form of social interaction in children.
However, what happens when this social interaction does not develop properly or is altered?
These deviations become warning signs of ASD, which parents, guardians, and specialists must learn to identify as soon as possible. Some of the most common social interaction problems in children with ASD may include:
- Difficulty in making friends, especially in environments where other children do.
- Lack of participation in interactive games.
- Withdrawal without apparent reasons.
- Absence or avoidance of eye contact and smiles, not due to extreme shyness.
- Tendency to treat people as objects, unusual behavior in other children.
- Preference for solitude, noticeable in free play areas.
- Inability to consistently and frequently show empathy.
These behaviors may reflect imbalances in visual, auditory, tactile, taste, and olfactory senses, which are either too intense or too weak. This altered sensory sensitivity will be explained in more detail in the next episode. It's important to remember that early detection is key for effective intervention. Often, our body seeks to mitigate intense and dangerous stimuli, so being attentive to help our children, or those of others, is essential to prevent future complications.