What Are the Early Signs of Autism?

Get to Know the Early Signs of Autism

Little boy awake in his bed
Mariló Valle. FOTOGRAFÍA/Moment/Getty Images

According to the CDC, as many as 1 out of every 68 (or possible 1 out of 45) children may be autistic. So if you're a parent of a young child and worried about the early signs of autism, you have a right to be concerned. It's a good idea to keep a close eye on your child's development because even very young children can be diagnosed. And research shows that the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the prognosis for good outcomes.

What should you be looking for? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these are some of the earliest red flags for autism:

Possible Indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders

  1. Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age
  2. Does not speak one word by 16 months
  3. Does not combine two words by 2 years
  4. Does not respond to name
  5. Loses language or social skills
  6. Poor eye contact
  7. Doesn't seem to know how to play with toys or excessively lines up toys or other objects
  8. Is attached to one particular toy or object
  9. Doesn't smile or interact joyfully
  10. At times seems to be hearing impaired

It's important to remember that there are many possible explanations for most of the symptoms listed above. A child's attachment to a particular toy or difficulty with language skills is not, in itself, a sign of autism.

It's also important to remember that a child who does have excellent language skills may still be diagnosable on the autism spectrum.

In fact, some children who are diagnosed with autism have extraordinary language and reading skills.

Other Possible Early Signs of Autism

Today, autism is generally diagnosed through a process of interviews with parents and observation of children. Some researchers, however, have found correlations between certain physical issues and autism.

If You See Signs that Suggest Autism

If You're Ready to Seek an Evaluation for Your Child

If you think you see early signs of autism, but your pediatrician doesn't agree, who's right? It may be that your pediatrician is incorrect. Find out more in Early Signs of Autism Your Pediatrician May Miss.


Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders) National Institute of Mental Health, 2010

Continue Reading