Autism

As a parent, you never want to believe that your precious child may have a problem. But when it comes to autism, catching it early can make a huge difference. The younger your child is at diagnosis, the greater the impact treatment can have on the symptoms of autism and other developmental problems. It’s vital for parents to recognize the warning signs in their babies and toddlers.

The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician.

  • By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
  • By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
  • By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
  • By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
  • By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
  • By 16 months: No spoken words.
  • By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.

Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers
Talk to your doctor if you have difficulty:

  • Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
  • Doesn't smile when smiled at.
  • Doesn't respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
  • Doesn’t follow objects visually.
  • Doesn't point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
  • Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
  • Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
  • Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
  • Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
  • Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
  • Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.

Signs and symptoms of autism in older children

  • Social difficulties in autism: Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them. Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends. Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled. Doesn’t play "pretend" games, or use toys in creative ways. He doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her.
  • Speech and language difficulties in autism: Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, repeats the same words or phrases over and over. Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it. Has difficulty communicating needs or desires. Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or questions.
  • Nonverbal communication difficulties in autism: Avoids eye contact, uses facial expressions are cold or “robot-like. Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises. Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g. walking exclusively on tiptoe)
  • Inflexibility in autism: Follows a rigid routine, has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment. Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling.

Common self-stimulatory behaviors:

  • Hand flapping
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Spinning in a circle
  • Finger flicking
  • Head banging
  • Staring at lights
  • Moving fingers in front of the eyes
  • Snapping fingers
  • Tapping ears
  • Scratching
  • Lining up toys
  • Spinning objects
  • Wheel spinning
  • Watching moving objects
  • Flicking light switches on and off
  • Repeating words or noises