A developmental disability, typically appearing during early childhood. Autism affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others and is defined by a certain set of behaviors (causing it to be a ‘spectrum condition’ as symptoms manifest differently among individuals).
Quick Guide For Recognizing the Early Signs of Autism
Autism spectrum disorder causes delays in many basic areas of development, including motor skills, sensory sensitivities and impulse control. (Please keep in mind that just because your child has a few autism-like symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has Autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a diagnosis based on the presence of multiple symptoms that disrupt a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play and learn.)
How to spot the warning signs
Regression of any kind is a serious autism warning sign
The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of normal behaviors—not the presence of abnormal ones—so they can be tough to spot. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for.
D E V E L O P M E N T A L R E D F L A G S
The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician:
– By 6 Mos: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions
– By 9 Mos: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds or facial expressions
– By 12 Mos: Lack of response to name
– By 12 Mos: No babbling or “baby talk”
– By 12 Mos: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing or waving
– By 16 Mos: No spoken words
– By 24 Mos: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating
As children get older, the red flags for autism become more diverse. The warning signs and symptoms usually revolve around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, and inflexible behavior. Additionally, children on the spectrum display restrictive and repetitive behaviors and interests. Examples include repetitive body movements (i.e. rocking, hand flapping, spinning, running back and forth, snapping fingers, head banging, moving fingers in front of eyes), repetitive motions with objects (i.e. spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flicking lights on and off, lining up toys, watching moving objects), and restrictive/repetitive behaviors (i.e. repeating words or noises, having a lasting intense interest in certain topics like numbers or facts, getting upset easily by slight changes in routine, being more or less sensitive than others to sensory input such as light, noise, clothing or temperature).
If you are concerned that your child has autism spectrum disorder, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to refer you immediately to an autism specialist or team of specialists for a comprehensive evaluation.
Like More Information?
Check out the following links:
Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Parent’s Guide to Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder – Fact Sheets on Autism
CDC’s Milestone Tracker App (free) – Interactive checklists with examples of developmental milestones to help you know what to look for in your child
CDC’s Milestone Checklists (PDFs) – ‘learn the signs, act early’
Does My Child Have Autism? Recognizing the Early Symptoms of Autism
Screening and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for Healthcare Providers – Information on how to spot the warning signs of Autism
- Smith, M.A., Melinda, Segal, Ph.D., Jeanne, Hutman, Ph.D., Ted. Does my Child Have Autism? Help Guide. Nov. 2018.
- Smith, M.A., Melinda, Segal, Ph.D., Jeanne, Hutman, Ph.D., Ted. Autism Spectrum Disorder. Help Guide. Sept. 2018