Autism is not usually diagnosed before two-years-old.
However, the subtle warning signs can be seen even earlier — perhaps before the age of 18 months.
The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the quicker the treatments can begin.
The five early warning signs of autism are:
- More limited and repetitive play,
- less name response,
- less social smiling,
- less babbling,
- limited gesture use.
Before one-year-old it is difficult to spot any of these signs.
But between 12 and 18-months, it is possible to pick up on these.
Below are some specific signs to look for in a child that may be at risk.
Some ‘red flag’ signs are indicated below — any of these mean a child needs to be medically evaluated.
- No warm or happy facial expressions.
- No social pointing, showing and reaching by 12-months-old (red flag).
- No babbling by 12-months-old (red flag).
- No sharing of smiles, sounds and other facial expressions.
- No words by 16 months (red flag).
- No two-word phrases by 24 months (red flag).
- Poor eye contact.
- Stops responding to their name between 6 and 12 months.
- Not interested in attracting their parents’ attention.
- Little pointing or waving goodbye and hello.
- Unusual or repetitive body movements, such as repeatedly stiffening legs, arms and hands.
Problems with language and social skills are central to autism, so any concerns around these should be acted on.
There are around 70 million people around the world who are autistic.
Prevalence in the US is around 1 in 100 children, maybe more.
Males are about four times more likely to have it than females.
There’s huge variability in the disorder.
That’s why it’s now known as an autism spectrum –- a very big spectrum.
The ‘spectrum’ includes Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and a host of other alternative names and classifications.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do