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Early Signs of Autism: What to Look For

Autism is a word that is becoming increasingly known and understood by the general population. Many people have heard of the “spectrum” that comes with this diagnosis. Children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may learn, behave, interact, and communicate differently than neuro-typical individuals. This spectrum may allow some children to communicate at an advanced conversation level with little to no support (previously referred to as ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’) while others may be nonverbal and require a significant amount of support in their daily living. Some people with ASD have additional genetic conditions while others do not. Some characteristics of Autism can appear as early as 12-24 months of age while others are diagnosed later in life. Below are 15 early signs of Autism:

  1. Limited eye contact

  2. No response to name

  3. Limited facial expressions

  4. Limited interest in others and interactive play

  5. Uses few or no gestures (like waving ‘bye’)

  6. Repeats words or phrases over and over (called ‘echolalia’)

  7. Difficulty understanding emotions (especially by age 3)

  8. Shows obsessive interests

  9. Flaps hands, rocks body, spins in circles

  10. Becomes upset with minor changes

  11. Unusual emotional reactions

  12. Plays with toys the same way every time (may not engage in pretend-play)

  13. Delays in language, movement, cognition, or learning

  14. Hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention

  15. Sensory Processing Issues (how things taste, smell, feel, etc.)

Keep in mind that those without ASD can also demonstrate some of these behaviors. If you are concerned that your child may be showing signs of ASD, make an appointment with a developmental pediatrician in your area as they are trained to diagnose ASD. If your child has a diagnosis of ASD, they may benefit from therapy services including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy.

For additional information, please visit the following sites and talk with your child’s providers.


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