Does My Baby or Toddler Have Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that may be diagnosed in children and adults, but the signs of autism are typically noticeable by the time a young child is between the ages of 18 to 24 months. One of the earliest indicators is delayed developmental milestones.

Babies who are 12 to 15 months old should be able to respond to or follow simple commands such as nodding their head for ‘yes’ or shaking the head sideways to indicate ‘no’ when they are asked easy questions.

They should also be making attempts to say “dada” and “mama” at this age. In addition, babies in this age group should start mimicking short words such as “uh-oh” or “yeah.”

Toddlers or babies who display signs of autism may have long periods of silence or may not speak at all. They may also refuse to try to communicate with parents or caregivers.

Additional developmental milestone delays that may be observed in young children who may have autism include:

  • Does not make eye contact
  • Does not play make believe or pretend
  • Loses skills that were previously present
  • Does not understand simple instructions
  • Does not say short words or speak in sentences
  • Cannot work simple toys or play with a simple puzzle
  • Does not demonstrate interest in playing with other children

There are also two categories of repetitive behaviors that may be displayed. One category is lower order repetitive behaviors that include movements such as fidgeting with objects, body rocking, flapping the hands, and recurring vocalizations (e.g., repeating the same phrase or grunting).

The second category is higher order repetitive behaviors such as rituals, routines, and insistence on having the same objects or interests. 

Overall, if a young child exhibits several of these behavioral patterns, it is important to mention this to a physician who can make a referral for an autism evaluation.

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References

  1. Lord C, et al. Autism spectrum disorder. Lancet. 2018;392(10146):508-520.
  2. Helt M, Kelley E, Kinsbourne M, et al. Can children with autism recover? If so, how? Neuropsychology Review. 2008;18(4):339-366.


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