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Does my daughter show signs of autism?

Q: I have a 5-year-old daughter who soon has to undergo evaluations for autism. She has many things going on with her and I can't put them all in this question. I'll just say that she is in an early intervention programme where she does not play with other children but just watches them. She sits in her own world in the class and is nowhere near her peers. She has a speech problem and is in therapy for this. She has many quirks, one being picking her teeth. She obsessively looks for things to pick her teeth with. She takes toys apart to pick her teeth. She throws horrible tantrums and occasionally hurts herself in the process. Sometimes when she’s asked a question, she gives an answer that does not pertain to the question at all. I am curious as to whether she is suffering from autism?

A:Since you have made such detailed observations about your daughter, you are obviously a patient parent and deeply concerned about your child. It would be best to wait for the evaluation that is to be done, than for me to make a guess. It does sound like a description of an autistic child, but do not treat the label as a stigma, just as an umbrella term for some conditions. Autism is just a label for a variety of behaviours. With the right kind of expert attention, autistic children do grow up to take up a normal life. It would be best to go by their abilities and preferences than to try and fit them into any specific mould. There is a great deal of written material on autism, which is available on the net. She may become a talented musician or mathematician. Anything is possible. Forcing her to mix with others may not be a good thing. Let her do things gradually. Later on some methods can be devised to stop her picking her teeth or throwing a tantrum.

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