Special Needs

Autism: Decoding the early warning signs

Sugandha Tiwari
1 to 3 years

Created by Sugandha Tiwari
Updated on Apr 05, 2017

Autism Decoding the early warning signs

Autism is a developmental disability that can have significant implications on a child’s ability to function and interact with the world around him.

The three main areas affected are speech or communication, social skills and behavior. Children with autism do not necessarily look different but may be impaired in their speech, behavior, learning, and the way they perceive the world around them. However, he/she may have unusually developed skills in other areas, such as drawing, music, solving math problems or memorizing facts.

The symptoms typically appear during the first three years, although some children show signs from birth itself.Although autism is hard to diagnose before two years of age, symptoms often surface between 12-18 months. Early intervention most of the times is helpful in training of the brain and sometimes reversing certain symptoms.

However, there are certain developmental warning signs that you can look for. They are:

By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions

By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions

By 12 months: Lack of response to name

By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk”

By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving

By 16 months: No spoken words

By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating

Early warning signs in your toddler

If your toddler doesn’t do some/most of the below, they could be signs of autism:

  • Make eye contact, such as looking at you when being fed or smiling when being smiled at
  • Respond to his name or to the sound of a familiar voice
  • Follow objects visually or follow your gesture when you point things out
  • Point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate
  • Make noises to get your attention
  • Initiate or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up
  • Imitate your movements and facial expressions
  • Play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
  • Notice or care if you hurt yourself or experience discomfort

Signs in older children

  • Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them
  • Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
  • Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled
  • Doesn’t play "pretend" games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways
  • Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them
  • Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him
  • Doesn't share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys)

Signs of non-verbal communication difficulties

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Uses facial expressions that don't match what he/she is saying
  • Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
  • Makes very few gestures (such as pointing). May come across as cold or “robot-like.”
  • Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises. Can also be unresponsive to people entering/leaving, as well as efforts by others to attract the child’s attention.
  • Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g., walking exclusively on tiptoes)

Signs of inflexibility

  • Follows a rigid routine (e.g., insists on taking a specific route to school)
  • Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment (e.g., throws a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged, or bedtime is at a different time than usual)
  • Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches, or rubber bands. Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order.
  • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols (e.g., memorizing and reciting facts about maps, train schedules, or sports statistics)
  • Spends long periods watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car
  • Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling (known as self-stimulatory behaviour, or “stemming”).

As a parent you are in the best position to spot the early warning signs of autism, you know your child best and can observe and experience things which even your doctor may not be able to many a times. Therefore, it’s key for you to educate yourself.

Are you the parent to an autistic child? If you have any feedback or views please share them with us in the comments section below. 

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| Jul 30, 2017

amazing dear my 2 year old son is diagnosed autism Nd he only says papa mama and nothing else I would definitely try all ur tricks

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| Jun 06, 2017

Pradeepa! eye contact is a natural milestone that every child attains. It cannot be forced or trained to improve. So. when you say " improve " what are you trying to do ? Kindly specify. In my experience there are a lot of adults also who don't give good eye contact possibly for reasons like low self esteem and other related personality issues.

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| Jun 06, 2017

Priya ! you will have to elaborate on this. Consistency of eye contact with family members and age of your child.

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| Jun 06, 2017

Shivangi! thanks for sharing about your child. When you say your baby does not speak at 2. 5 years of age, does that mean not even a single word ? Not making an eye contact yes is a concern area. Lot of children begin speaking in full 3-4 word sentences late since language development depends on lot of other key factors like how stimulating is the child's enviornment. It's certainly not a bad idea to get a screening test done.

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| Apr 11, 2017

hi sugandha my baby is of 2 and half year old but does not speak and does not make eye contact with us but when we call him by his name he responds right from his birth he has shown his all the developmental milestones​ very delay so we are thinking he will start speaking late.. kindly suggest is there anything i should worry about. plz help me

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| Apr 07, 2017

Eye contact with us... not with strangers... is it an issue

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| Apr 06, 2017

How to improve eye contact

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| Apr 05, 2017


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| Apr 05, 2017


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