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Recognizing Early Signs of Autism: A Parent’s Guide

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. It’s known as a “spectrum” disorder because there’s wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. Recognizing the early signs of autism can lead to a sooner diagnosis, which can result in better outcomes for children due to early intervention. This guide aims to help parents understand and recognize the early signs of autism.

Understanding Autism

Autism is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. It’s generally recognized early in development, often by age 2, but some signs can appear even earlier. Autism is a lifelong condition, but early diagnosis and intervention can make a significant difference in a child’s development.

Early Signs of Autism

While every child develops at their own pace, there are certain developmental milestones that can help parents identify potential signs of autism. Here are some signs to look out for:

Social Differences

Children with autism often have difficulty with social interactions. This can manifest in several ways:

  • Lack of eye contact: They may avoid eye contact or have difficulty maintaining it.
  • Lack of response to name: By 9 months, most babies will respond to their name. A lack of response can be an early sign of autism.
  • Lack of social smiling: By 6 months, most babies will show social smiles. A lack of these smiles can be an early sign of autism.
  • Lack of shared enjoyment: They may not show interest in sharing enjoyment or interests with others.

Communication Differences

Children with autism often have differences in communication. This can include:

  • Delayed speech: While some children with autism might have no delay in speech, others might be delayed. By 16 months, most babies will say at least one word, and by 24 months, most will say two-word phrases.
  • Repetitive or unusual language: They might repeat words or phrases over and over, or use language in unusual ways.
  • Lack of gestures: By 12 months, most babies will use gestures like pointing or waving. A lack of these gestures can be an early sign of autism.

Behavioral Differences

Children with autism often have unique behavioral patterns. This can include:

  • Repetitive behaviors: They might repeat certain behaviors over and over, like flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or spinning in circles.
  • Intense interests: They might develop intense interests in specific topics or items.
  • Sensory sensitivities: They might be overly sensitive to certain sounds, textures, or lights, or they might seek out certain sensory experiences.

What to Do If You Notice These Signs

If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor. They can conduct a developmental screening to assess whether your child is developing typically or might have delays. If there are concerns, they can refer you to a specialist for a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation.

Remember, these signs don’t necessarily mean your child has autism. Many children who don’t have autism might show some of these behaviors at times. However, if you have concerns, it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice.

Early Intervention

If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention can make a significant difference. Early intervention services can help improve your child’s development and can include therapy to help your child talk, walk, and interact with others. It’s important to start these services as soon as possible to maximize their impact.


Recognizing the early signs of autism can lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention, which can significantly improve outcomes for children with autism. If you notice any signs of autism in your child, don’t hesitate to speak with a healthcare professional. Remember, every child is unique and develops at their own pace, so these signs can vary from child to child. With the right support and resources, children with autism can thrive and lead fulfilling lives. As a parent, your understanding, patience, and advocacy are key to your child’s success.


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