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  • Writer's picturedrhilya

Early Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Children

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

As autism prevalence rates climb to 1 in 44 eight-year-old children and 1 in 59 four-year-old children (according to CDC’s December 2, 2021 report), it’s more important than ever to recognize the early signs and symptoms of autism and seek out an evaluation to determine if your child meets the criteria. Early detection and intervention continue to be the most important factors in promoting children’s development and well-being.

The following are signs and symptoms to attend to and speak with your doctor about. In addition, please note that you should consult your child’s doctor if there is ever any loss of a previously gained skill.

If your baby does not do the following by four months of age:

  • Respond to loud sounds

  • Smile at people

  • Bring hands or items to mouth

  • Hold head up steadily

  • Watch things as they move

If your baby does not do the following by six months of age:

  • Reach for things

  • Shows affection for caregivers

  • Respond to sounds

  • Make some vowel sounds (eh, ah, oh)

  • Laugh or squeal

By nine months of age, your child should be able to:

  • Look where you point

  • Babble (e.g. mama, dada)

  • Recognize familiar people

  • Respond to his/her own name

  • Sit up with help

  • Bear his or her weight on legs with support

  • Transfer toys from one hand to the other

By the time your child is one, he or she should be:

  • Point and using other gestures such as waving or shaking head yes or no

  • Searching for things that he or she sees you hide

  • Say some simple single words

  • Stand with support

By 18 months of age, your child should be able to:

  • Imitate or copy others

  • Have at least 6 words

  • Know what familiar objects such as a cup or spoon are used for

  • React when a caregiver leaves or returns

  • Walk

By 2 years of age, your child should:

  • Use 2-word phrases (e.g. “mama up”)

  • Follow simple instructions

  • Walk steadily

By 3 years of age, you should consult your doctor if your child:

  • Is not yet speaking in sentences

  • Has speech that is difficult to understand

  • Drools a lot

  • Doesn’t play appropriately with simple toys or shows little interest in toys

  • Doesn’t show an interest in playing with other children

  • Doesn’t engage in pretend play

  • Doesn’t make eye contact

  • Falls down often or has trouble on stairs

By 4 years of age, the following are indications that you should talk to your child’s doctor:

  • Has no interest in playing with other children

  • Doesn’t respond to people outside the family

  • Is unable to engage in make believe play

  • Can’t retell a favorite story

  • Doesn’t follow 3-step directions

  • Doesn’t use “you” and “me” correctly

  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”

  • Speaks unclearly

  • Doesn’t scribble or has trouble scribbling with a crayon

By 5 years of age, indications for concern are the following:

  • Child doesn’t show a wide range of emotions

  • Has extreme behaviors (unusually aggressive, fearful, sad, shy)

  • Is unusually withdrawn and not active in social situations

  • Is easily distracted and has trouble focusing on an activity for more than five minutes

  • Doesn’t respond to people or responds only superficially

  • Can’t tell the difference between real and make believe

  • Doesn’t participate in a wide variety of games and activities

  • Can’t give his/her first and last name

  • Doesn’t use plurals, pronouns or past tense properly

  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities

  • Doesn’t draw pictures

  • Can’t do daily activities (brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed) without help

Signs of autism in older children, teens and adults may include:

  • Impaired social skills, including difficulty navigating and sustaining relationships

  • Difficulty with eye contact

  • Rigid adherence to daily activities

  • Unusual or intense interests or obsessive/repetitive behaviors

  • Being highly sensitive or notably under-responsive to sounds, textures, movements, or light

If your child is showing signs and symptoms of autism or you suspect your child may have autism, feel free to contact us for a free 20 minute consultation.

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