Signs of Autism in Children

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Children may begin to show signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as early as infancy. Other children may not develop symptoms until they are toddlers. Symptoms usually are noticed by age 2.

Each child may have a unique pattern of behavior and level of symptom severity. The autism specialists with Norton Children’s Autism Center, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the expertise to care for children with ASD and their families.

Signs of Autism in Babies

By 6 months old, babies with ASD may:

  • Not have big smiles or facial expressions
  • Have limited or no eye contact

By 9 months old, babies with ASD may:

  • Not interact using sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
  • Not mirror sounds, smiles or other facial expressions (baby does not laugh if you laugh)

Signs of Autism in Toddlers

By 12 months old, children with ASD may:

  • Use limited speech or “babbling”
  • Have limited or no response to their name
  • Use limited or no gestures, such as waving or point their fingers

By 16 months old, children with ASD may:

  • Speak very few words
  • Not use words
  • Not play “pretend” games, such as feeding a baby doll or mimicking adult actions

By 24 months, children with ASD may:

  • Not use two-word meaningful phrases without imitation or repetition

Signs of Autism at Any Age

Children with ASD may experience regression, meaning they lose skills or fall behind on milestones they completed, including speech, babbling or social skills. Children with ASD may show combinations of symptoms at varying levels of severity.

Social Interaction and Communication

  • May appear not to hear you or fail to respond to their name
  • May have poor eye contact or few facial expressions
  • May not speak, or have delayed or limited speech
  • May have difficulty starting or maintaining a conversation
  • May speak in different tones or rhythms; may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  • May repeat words or phrases but have difficulty using them in context
  • May not appear to understand simple questions or directions
  • May have trouble expressing their feelings
  • May have trouble understanding the feelings of others and nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice

Behavior patterns

Children with autism may show repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. These may include:

  • Repetitive movements, such as hand flaps, spinning or rocking
  • Specific routines or rituals that develop over time and may show concern over small changes to these patterns
  • Clumsiness, walking on toes, stiff body language, lack of coordination or odd patterns of movement
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and/or touch but may be indifferent to temperature changes or pain
  • Food preferences, such as only eating certain foods or refusing foods with certain textures

Why Choose Norton Children’s Autism Center

  • Kentucky’s only autism center offering a full range of health, educational and behavioral services in one location
  • Specialty care for conditions related to autism, such as epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and genetic and neurogenetic conditions, available in one location to help families manage their child’s health care with ease
  • Outreach diagnostic and medical clinic locations available in Bowling Green, Owensboro, Paducah and Somerset, Kentucky, through a partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office for Children With Special Health Care Needs

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