Autistic children might develop skills at different rates from typically developing children. They might also develop skills in a different order from other children.
For example, autistic children might start to use a few single words around 12 months of age and then develop language differently from typically developing children as they get older. Or they might be able to recite the alphabet or count beyond 20 but might not be able to use language to make requests or say hello.
Some autistic children develop strengths in particular areas, like naming colours, remembering routes to familiar places, or recognising words in the supermarket. But they might not always be able to generalise these strengths. This means they might not be able to go from naming colours to answering questions about the colours in a picture, or from recognising words to reading books.
If you identify your child’s strengths and abilities, you can work with these strengths to help your child develop new skills.
Interaction, joint attention and autism
Autistic children might interact with people in a different way from typically developing children.
For example, autistic children might not respond to their own names, smile when someone smiles at them, or notice facial expressions. But they often develop their own way of letting their parents know what they want, although they might not use the gestures that typically developing children use. For example, they might lead their parents by the hand rather than pointing to show their carers something interesting.
Research shows that many people with autism have difficulty with joint attention, which is the ability to share focus on an object or area with another person. It involves using eye contact and gestures to share experiences with others. Examples of joint attention skills include following someone else’s gaze or pointed finger to look at something. Difficulties in joint attention can make it harder for autistic children to develop communication and language skills. For example, if a parent is pointing to a picture of a dog, but the child is interested in another part of the picture, it might be harder for the child to learn the link between the picture of a dog and the word ’dog’.