Signs of Autism

Below is a list of “red flags” to look out for if you suspect that your child might have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Keep in mind, Autism is known as a spectrum disorder. The intensity of signs varies extensively! Not all children on the spectrum show all “red flags.” Some infants show symptoms in their first few months. Other children’s signs of Autism are only noticed at age 2 or 3.

It is important to note that many children without Autism show a few behaviors that are considered “red flags.” A professional evaluation is important. Please do not self-diagnose your child.

Communication

  • Speech and language skills are delayed
  • Loss of previously acquired speech
  • Rarely or does not respond to their name when called
  • Frequently echoes words overheard by others
  • Persistently repeats phrases heard over and over again
  • Rarely says the words “I” or “yes”
  • Seldom points to items or respond to pointing
  • When asked a question, usually gives unrelated answers
  • Typically does not recognize sarcasm, jokes or teasing
  • Many times speaks in a tone of voice is flat and robot-like or talks in a sing-song tone
  • Infrequently follows directions involving words such as on, over, between etc. (prepositions)
  • No cooing, babbling or making any sounds (infants)
  • Infrequently or never engages in big smiles or other happy and interactive expressions. (infants)
  • Speaks with little or few words (toddler)
  • Minimal or no interactive gestures such as waving, reaching or pointing (toddler)

Social Skills

  • Displays poor or no eye contact
  • Shows preference to playing alone instead of playing with others
  • Does not often share his/her interests with others
  • Only interacts with others with the purpose of attaining a desired goal.
  • Does not understand the concept of personal space and boundaries. Will stand very close to a person when talking/ very far
  • Flat facial expressions
  • Sometimes makes inappropriate facial expressions
  • Seldom understands the feelings or emotions of others
  • Does not discuss his/her own feelings
  • When distressed has a hard time being comforted
  • Usually does not use toys in an appropriate way
  • Avoids or shows resistance to physical contact
  • Shows difficulty in developing friendships
  • Often anxious
  • Hardly ever responds to hearing their name called
  • Few interactions with caregivers and/or people around them
  • Limited eye contact and hardly uses facial expressions
  • Generally does not desire to be held or cuddled

Behaviors

  • Does not play with toys in many different ways-uses toy the same way each time
  • Displays repetitive behaviors
  • Many times stares into space for long periods of time
  • Rarely evokes a reaction to painful stimuli such as cuts or bruises
  • Displays intense reactions to sounds. Many times covers ears in response to loud sounds
  • Seldom shows a “startle response” to loud sounds
  • Often feels, smells or taste objects in his/her environment
  • Evokes intense reactions to specific smells, tastes, colors, textures and sounds
  • Has difficulty with transitions or changes in routines or surroundings
  • Displays aggressive behaviors toward other children his age (biting, kicking, hitting etc.)
  • Is seen engaging  in ritualistic behaviors such as lining up objects and toys
  • Displays hand flapping behavior
  • Sometimes spins him/herself in circles
  • Rocks body back and forth as a self-stimulatory behavior
  • Exhibits self-injurious behaviors such as head banging or hand biting
  • Engages in intense temper tantrums
  • Commonly shows distress by certain textures

Adaptive Daily Living

  • Generally needs assistance with dressing
  • Display toileting difficulties
  • Doesn’t wait for needs to be met
  • Frequently appears to be unaware of what is going on around him/her
  • Is not careful around dangerous situations objects i.e. open fire