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Treating Patients with Autism in a Dental Setting

Course Number: 402

Characteristics of Autism

ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person’s life, although symptoms improve over time. Some children show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or lose the skills they once had.

A person with ASD might:

  • Not respond to their name by 12 months

  • Not point at objects to show interest (e.g., point at an airplane flying) by 14 months

  • Not play “pretend” games (e.g., pretend to feed a doll) by 18 months

  • Avoid eye contact or want to be alone

  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings

  • Have delayed speech and language skills

  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (i.e., echolalia)

  • Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all

  • Get upset by minor changes

  • Have obsessive interests

  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles

  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

  • No real sense of danger

  • Appear to be unaware when other people talk to them but respond to other sounds

  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions

  • Not look at objects when another person points at them