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What are Early Signs of Autism?

March 22, 2022

Multiple research studies have proven that early intervention is crucial for children with autism. While children don’t “outgrow” autism spectrum disorder, early and aggressive intervention can improve their quality of life, allowing them to gain the essential skills they need to reach their fullest potential. 

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “The early signs of ASD can cause a cascading effect on brain development. Without early detection and intervention, these indicators can lead to significant social, language, and cognitive deficits, as well as challenging behaviors.” 

But before you seek early intervention, you need to understand how to recognize the early signs of autism. It can be confusing to decipher the various online lists and resources and assimilate everything you hear from other moms and dads or read in parenting articles. Failure to meet developmental milestones is the most reliable early indicator of autism spectrum disorder.  

The CDC first published a list of developmental milestones in 2004. In February 2022, it published a revised list. The new guidelines were established in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here are the main changes:

  •  Instead of identifying milestones that 50% of children are expected to achieve by a certain age, which encourages more of a “wait and see” approach, the new list identifies milestones that 75% of children are expected to achieve by a certain age. 
  • The new list includes 15 and 30-month checklists to coincide with regular pediatrician well-checks. 

Keep in mind that not all children with autism show all symptoms or behaviors, but most will show several. Signs vary greatly between individuals. 

Social differences

  • Have limited or no eye contact by the age of six months
  • Displays few or no big smiles or other facial expressions by six months
  • Doesn’t show affection by hugging or kissing by 15 months 
  • Doesn’t hug dolls or toys by 15 months 
  • Has difficulty showing empathy for other people (any age) 

Communication differences

  • Doesn’t share sounds by nine months 
  • Is babbling (such as “ba ba” or “ma ma”) rarely or not at all by 12 months
  • Rarely gestures back-and-forth, such as with pointing or waving by 12 months 
  • Has little or no response to their name by 12 months
  • Speaks or babbles in an unusual tone at 12-14 months
  • Doesn’t have any single words by 15 months  
  • Has few or no two-word phrases by 24 months 
  • Can’t say about 50 words by 30 months
  • Can’t name objects in a book or picture by 30 months

Behavioral signs

  • Displays unusual sensory sensitivities, such as pulling away from physical touch or hypersensitivity to bright lights at around 12-24 months 
  • Loses skills and abilities they had begun to develop during infant and toddlerhood
  • Exhibits repetitive movements, such as flapping or rocking at any age

Physical signs

  • Doesn’t take a few steps on their own by 15 months
  • Doesn’t use their fingers to feed themselves by 15 months
  • Can’t take off a single piece of clothing on their own by 30 months

About Play —  Providing early intervention to nurture children and their families.

No parent wants their child to struggle as they learn and grow. If you're concerned that your child might have some signs of autism, early intervention specialists can help. About Play is here to support you, equipping you with the tools you need to foster your child's continued development. Our services are 100% covered by the state of South Carolina and our interventionalists come directly to your home. We strive to keep you and your child as comfortable as possible to get the best results possible. Give us a call or contact us online today for more information.