Autism in a 5-year-old

By Arielle Maganlal

Autism is broken up into two domains:

  1. Challenges in social communication (vocal, identifying tone of voice and facial expressions, identifying literal and figurative expressions/ language, giving eye contact when interacting, identifying emotions in others and how to react to them), and
  2. Repetitive and restricted behaviour patterns (repetitive body movements and object movements, restricted staring at lights or movements, unusual interest in topics).

These characteristics can be spotted at an early age, generally, autism can be diagnosed at the age of 18 months onwards. However, hope is not lost if autism is picked up in an age above 18 months. For example, autism in a 5-year-old is still treatable and there is still lots of hope to join the road to recovery.

Autism in a 5-year-old can be identified but not limited to the following:

  • Challenges in social skills can be presented in the child not responding to his/her name, chooses to play alone and does not participate in pretend play, does not give eye contact or understand gestural cues and expressions, isn’t interested in making friends or playing with other children.
  • Challenges in language can be seen as little to no speech, repeats words and/or phrases, doesn’t understand sarcasm, humour or expressions.
  • Challenges in behaviours are generally the inability to control his/her emotions, produces repetitive actions such as flapping hands or waving, attractions to unusual parts of toys (such as spinning the wheels of a car rather than driving it), and obsessive interests.

An article by Denise Mann discussed Autism being diagnosed at the age of 5 years and older. This article explains that Autism was spotted at a school going age and quite a high percentage of children in the US were diagnosed with autism. Autism in a 5 year old is still early enough to get onto the road to recovery through Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). The ideal amount of ABA therapy for children with autism is 40 hours a week. This one-on-one based therapy works with an individualised program that works to improve these social communication challenges and reduced the occurrences of the restricted and repetitive behaviours.

At this school going age of 5 years old, children with autism, require one-on-one work to provide the child with tools that will equip him/ her to have an ordinary school experience. School facilitation plays a huge role in this process, as apart from the one-on-one ABA therapy, the facilitator attends school with the child and cues him/ her with the socially acceptable responses to the different events of the day at school. The facilitator also works with inappropriate behaviour and implements the specific behaviour intervention plan for the child’s behaviour/ behaviours. The child learns to replace his/her inappropriate behaviour with socially acceptable behaviour yet still receive the input that he/ she desires.

Autism in a 5-year-old may seem like a challenging endeavour, however, The Star Academy provides the therapy and programs that can help make this journey to recovery a possibility.