What are the Early Signs of Autism?

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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
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According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one in 110 children is afflicted with some form of autism spectrum disorder. Autism is a neurological development disorder that impacts a child's ability to interact and communicate with others. Detecting early signs of autism greatly improves the effectiveness of treatment. Early signs of autism are linked to a delay in specific developmental milestones that affect social interaction as well as certain repetitive behaviors. It is key for parents and caregivers to be aware of these signs so that a child's pediatrician may be alerted as early as possible.

Early signs of autism typically appear anytime between the first few months and a child's third birthday. Signs of autism include a failure to smile by six months, failure to respond to his or her name by the age of one, lack of eye contact, disinterest in playing pretend games, and a preference for being alone. Many children with autism will also exhibit a delay in speech and language skills. A child may not use single words by a year and a half and may not use two word sentences by two years of age. Some may also appear to learn new words, then regress back to using no words whatsoever.


Other early signs of autism include repetitive behaviors such as repeating words and phrases again and again, repeatedly moving an object, or repetitive movement of the fingers, hands, or arms. Most children with autism also have an inability to empathize with others or communicate their own feelings. Obsessive behaviors are also common, and autistic children are very tied to their own routines and become unusually upset when minor routine changes are encountered. Perhaps the biggest indicator that a child might suffer from some form of an autism spectrum disorder is a general lack of interest or ability to connect with other people.

Watching out for these early signs allows a child to be screened and diagnosed so that treatment can begin early. However, it is important to note that many of the signs can also indicate a multitude of other issues, or simply an individual delay that will be rectified when a child catches up with his or her age group. If a child exhibits some of the early signs of autism, a parent or caregiver should always communicate this to the child's pediatrician, but parents needn't be alarmed until a physician assesses the situation.



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