Early Warning Signs of Autism
No two children with autism are alike. However, there are some signs that many autistic children share and experts agree may be as recognizable as early as the toddler years, or even sooner. Research suggests that children as young as one year old can show some early warning signs of autism.
Children on the spectrum generally have difficulty relating to others; they may hardly speak, and if they do, they may not communicate in ways that other people can easily understand (they may screech loudly when they’re upset, for example, instead of crying). They don’t usually sustain eye contact and have trouble reading social cues. They’re also prone to repetitive behaviours such as flapping their hands constantly or uttering the same phrase over and over again. They may also be more sensitive than typically developing children, or dramatically less so, to sights, sounds and touch.
The most important thing a parent or caregiver can do is to learn the early signs of autism and understand the typical developmental milestones your child should be reaching at different ages. In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators.” More often these “red flags” are indicators that a child should be evaluated.
For a parent, these are the signs that your child should be screened to ensure that he is on the right developmental path. If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your paediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:
• No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
• No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
• No babbling by 12 months
• No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
• No words by 16 months
• No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
• Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
Again, these red flags may indicate a child is at risk for atypical development and is in need of an immediate evaluation. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait. Speak to your doctor about screening your child for autism. If your child does have autism, in the absence of a cure, early intervention may provide the best chance for successful outcomes.
Courtesy of Autism Speaks Canada. For more information visit www.autismspeaks.ca