What are the early signs of autism?

Signs of autism spectrum disorder begin before age 3. Know the signs and what you should do if you suspect your child may have autism.

About 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Signs of autism spectrum disorder begin before age 3. Do you know the signs, and what you should do if you suspect your child may have autism?

According to the National Autism Association, autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social and cognitive impairments, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors. The disorder can range from very mild to very severe. The timing and intensity of when children start showing signs of autism can vary widely. Some kids may show signs in their first few months, while other kids’ signs may not be obvious until age 2 or 3.

Signs of autism by age

If you notice a child display any of the following signs and symptoms, it’s best to reach out to your child’s primary care provider as soon as possible for an immediate evaluation:

By 6 months old

  • No big smiles or facial expressions
  • Limited or no eye contact

By 9 months old

  • No interaction through sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 1 year old

  • No babbling
  • No gestures, such as waving or pointing fingers

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By 16 months

  • No words or very few words

By 24 months

  • No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitation or repetition)

At any age

  • Regression of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

What to do after diagnosis

Following a diagnosis, parents experience a roller coaster of emotions and wonder what next steps to take to get their child the help he or she needs.

Joining a support group is also recommended for parents and families to learn more about children with autism spectrum disorder. Support and resource groups throughout Kentucky can be found at AutismSpeaks.org.

While there is no definitive cause of autism spectrum disorder, parents should remain mindful that the condition is treatable, and with early intervention, children with autism make progress and can succeed in life.

“Autism has always been with us, but now, we are looking at ways to deal with it more scientifically to improve the lives of these children and to not stigmatize them,” said Richard A. Boada, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Jeffersonville.