Does My Child Have Autism? Signs Of Autism In Children

Today we’ll show you the most common signs of autism in children to help you determine if your child has autism.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 20, 2023
min read

Does My Child Have Autism?

Some of the primary indicators for Autism Spectrum Disorder are problems with speaking and understanding others, particularly in social settings. Behavior is often repetitive, where what is spoken and done is expressed in excess.

Some of the disorder's earliest symptoms typically described by parents involve delayed speech, interests of a very restricted nature, and problems responding when one's name is called upon.

Although eye contact is something that many children show problems attempting, the autistic have considerable difficulty.

Still, symptoms in every person can be different, and no two kids display the same signs. For instance, in one autistic child, indicators might be conspicuous when in their presence, but impossible with another.

At times, events may cause a child to show symptoms more often than in a location they're more comfortable around, such as during school. But when in the confines of somewhere they find more familiar, symptoms might appear to go away altogether.

Most Common Signs Of Autism In Children

Children with autism generally have issues with communication and sociability. Here are additional signs that parents should look for:

1. Never responds to their name being called

reason 1

Doesn't say anything when someone calls out to them or appears to not hear it, even in situations where they clearly should. Autistic kids may show no signals, including when parents call on them for something they like to do.

2. Shies away from cuddling

reason 2

For many children, huddling or cuddling with their parents is a pastime. Yet for autistic kids, any physical displays of affection may result in them running away, or even reacting in a negative way.

3. Problems making eye contact with limited facial expressions

reason 3

Doesn't show any desire for looking at others, either when saying something or when someone else attempts to reply with eye contact. No apparent expression is shown, such as smiling, even when engaged in something they find entertaining.

4. Problem beginning a conversation, or maintaining one

reason 4

May exhibit shyness or an abrupt end to something at an awkward moment during a discussion.

5. Emotional way of speaking

reason 5

Shows much emotion in rhythm and tonality when engaged in a conversation, with a speech that sounds song-like or automated.

6. Repetition in words used

reason 6

Often repeats words, phrases, and expressions accurately while not fully knowing what they mean, or what the sentence means.

7. Problems with understanding simple questions

reason 7

Questions and directions appear to be challenging for them to grasp, or specific parts of the directions may not be followed.

8. No expressed feelings or emotions

reason 8

Shows disinterest or no emotions at all during times when it would be appropriate to do so, and seemingly has no noticeable awareness towards the feelings of others. May tune out events where attendance is expected. For example, remains expressionless with no change in demeanor when someone around is hurt.

9. Never points at objects or carry them over to others

reason 9

This occurs when a child may want something but never signals the item they want. Alternatively, they may keep objects in place, even when someone, such as a friend, mentions them or asks to play with them.

10. Social interactions seem inappropriate

reason 10

Tends to show aggression, disruption, or apathy when around other people and peers when in situations that call for social interaction.

11. Cannot recognize nonverbal cues

reason 11

Nonverbal cues can be the interpretation of one's facial expressions, posture, and tonality. All of these are seemingly ignored or go unrecognized.

12. Repeated behavioral patterns

reason 12

Kids with ASD usually show repetition in the way they behave. Some of the following are the most common:

  • Movement occurs multiple times. Things like hand clapping, hand flapping, rocking back and forth and spinning around.
  • Physical activities that lead to self-harm, like banging their head on hard surfaces and biting themselves, other objects, or people.
  • Resorts to undesirable routines that lead to tantrums when they're disrupted in any way.
  • Displays issues with general coordination, accompanied by movements that appear odd and patterned. Strange body language, out of the ordinary, or highly exaggerated.
  • Shows intense interest in the fine details of different objects and materials. Things that spin, such as wheels, are fascinating, but end in confusion through not understanding their functionality.
  • Incredible sensitivity to light, being touched, and audible noise. However, could show no interest in temperature changes and feeling pain.

13. Never uses their imagination

reason 13

Show little to no enthusiasm when other children play with them, and appears indifferent to fantastical things that their peers make up. Additionally, may not follow directions that are described to them, such as when taking turns sliding down a toy slide.

14. Extreme focus on single objects or activity

reason 14

Their interest could rest in one particular thing about the object, a part that would appear unusual for a child to focus so intently on, like a screw on a toy or a battery lid.

15. Refuses to eat certain foods

reason 15

May eat a very limited number of foodstuffs and refrain from meals with a specific texture, consistency, shape, or color.

While these signs are certain indicators of autism, children with the disorder could show some improvement in sociability with more limited instances of poor behavior. As symptoms increasingly reduce, they may go on to have ordinary lives to the point of symptoms that seem to almost disappear.

Nevertheless, some might have problems being social and communicating many years into their adolescence and adulthood.

During adolescence and with no therapy, someone with ASD could show severe emotional distress and behavior. If left unchecked, the chances of troublemaking, aggression towards others, and disrespect for authority increase in likelihood.

As autism has no cure, therapy is often sought for children at an early age so they may learn to cope with their feelings, or manage them appropriately.

Signs and Symptoms Of Autism In Babies and Toddlers

Young children, such as toddlers and babies, will often show signs that are commonly associated with autism. These include some of the signs mentioned, such as not responding to their name. This indicator is more common among kids that are toddlers, as some infants may not fully understand their name as it relates to them.

However, babies can avoid eye contact, and those with autism may have a problem keeping their eyes focused on the causes of others.

Babies without autism are often curious, with no timid reactions. When looking at other people, their eyes meet, no matter if they're strangers. When the same courtesy is given to a small child with ASD, they may turn their head in a different direction, or even become agitated when someone tries to get their attention, even from parents.

Small autistic kids may not smile much, regardless if someone around them is smiling back. Kids at a young age feel the need to smile when someone around them does it, especially to lighten their mood.

At times, this might be an instinctive reaction. But with ASD children, smiling could generate no reaction whatsoever.

Although babies cannot speak the language fluently, they often make sounds in an attempt to mimic the language they hear around them or to express their reaction to an event, something not present in young people with a questionable autism diagnosis.

Red Flags By Age

By 6 Months

During the first six months of an autistic child's life, smiling might come as a rarity, if at all. When it does happen it could be sporadic and over something that would seem uneventful to other children.

When tickled, the infant's expression could remain the same, or even focus on something different as the parents attempt to play with them at close range. Other warm expressions, such as laughing, could happen on fewer occasions than smiling does.

Other joyful expressions that are common in babies, like giggling, making cackling sounds, and loud audible noises to show their happiness will possibly be nonexistent. If they do appear, the expression could be very brief, probably shown when playing by themselves or with something that catches their attention.

The toys provided for them may not keep their attention, even when they make noises or involve them using their body to affect their movement. Motor skills could be severely lacking, where pushing buttons or moving pieces to a suspended toy are impossible for them to carry out. Crying might be common, even after they've eaten and had their diaper changed.

By 9 Months

After nine months, babies with ASD carry on the traits that were present at six months, yet with more noticeability. When crawling on the floor, their lack of posture may continue to show as well, with things like staying up with hands on the floor being impossible to do. This is also an early indicator of postural issues later on in their life.

There are autistic children that never fully learn correct posture until their preteen years. Poor posture can also be seen when they're lying in a face-up position, or when playing with a toy in the same stance. The baby could fall over quite frequently until irritation sets in, and crying commences.

At nine months, babies will have some level of skill in sharing an exchange with their parents. It's done when a mother or father makes a sound, attempts to smile, or makes a funny facial expression.

The reaction to these events babies with autism will be met with little reciprocity or no change in their feelings. Long stretches of little noise are common. Crying may occur, but at periods that seem sporadic and hard to predict.

By 12 Months

By the time an autistic baby gets to their first birthday, they may still have no response to their name being called. Even when directly in front of their parents, they show no indication of repeated calls of their names.

For one-year-old babies without autism, the initial reaction to hearing their name called is to look in the direction of where the sound came from. If it's their parents, they smile or laugh, particularly at a time when play is involved.

Keeping balance might continue to be problematic, and playing with toys that require some physical manipulation can end in frustration and crying.

The motor skills of some with autism aren't as severe as others, making it possible for some babies as 12 months to carry on with ordinary posture, balance, and hand-eye coordination.

Baby talk, or any noise at all, might be a rarity. This may lead some parents to believe that their child isn't well, or has an illness not related to autism. While, pointing, clapping, waving, and reaching for people and objects are few, they can react negatively to sudden noises.

By 16 Months

At 16 months, the baby may continue crawling, making no effort whatsoever to attempt walking. Every baby is different, however, so some may learn to walk later than others, with or without autism. The primary focus at this point is when there are limited, few, or no words being spoken. These can be taken as signs of an autistic child that's nonverbal, harboring an inability to communicate.

By 24 Months

By the age of two, if words are spoken, they're typically uninspiring and have no meaning. They may occur in repetition and sound nothing like the words that parents attempt to get them to learn.

Signs and Symptoms In Older Children

The red flags in older kids with autism become diversified. The warning signs could remain present but revolve around a lacking social ability, impaired speech, and problems understanding basic language skills.

Here are additional signs common in older children:

  • Shows little interest in other people with no reaction to the events happening in their presence
  • No experience in play, making friends, or bonding with their peers
  • Doesn't like to be touched, looked at, or hugged
  • No creativity during play
  • Difficulty interpreting their feelings to other people, and no reaction to the feelings of others
  • No desire to show off their talents or achievements


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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