Early Signs Of Autism In Babies And Kids

Are you concerned that your child may have autism? Here are the signs to look for.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
December 19, 2023
min read

Early Signs of Autism in Babies

ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts one's social abilities, communication abilities, and overall behavior toward people.

While the signs of ASD might not be easy to notice until kids are at least a few years old, there are plenty of warnings that parents and caregivers can find in infants. When identification is made early, along with intervention, it can greatly improve the outcomes for kids on the spectrum.

Early indicators of autism in infants are an inability to respond to social cues and commands. Infants that have ASD may never look at someone or smile when responding to social cues that come from people close to them.

Additionally, they may never respond when someone calls their name, or even show excitability when playing games that other children would find exciting, like patty cake or peek-a-boo.

Additional indicators of autism in infants are language development that's delayed. The majority of infants begin making a sound when they reach six months, then proceed to say some words or attempt at words after reaching 12 months.

Still, infants that are on the spectrum could produce these skills at a much slower pace.

They might show great problems with gestures, such as pointing at various objects or general communication.

Repetitive behaviors can be early indicators of autism in infancy. Infants with ASD could engage in behaviors that are repetitive such as vigorously rocking, making spinning motions, excessively clapping, and hand flapping. They might become unusually interested in specific objects and routines and get upset when they're prevented from doing so.

Issues of the senses can be another indicator of early-stage autism. Infants that have the disorder might be very sensitive to different stimuli such as noises that are very loud or brightly lit objects.

They might look for specific instances of sensory input, with jumping and spinning being the most common. They could show extreme difficulty in making adjustments to changes that occur, especially after getting into a routine or new environment they're unfamiliar with.

Not all infants that display such symptoms have autism. Likewise, not all babies with autism may experience the symptoms in detail.

Still, if parents are worried about their baby's development and noted some of the characteristics mentioned, it's strongly recommended they talk with a pediatrician or other doctor about what they've noticed.

Medical professionals can assist in helping a child's early development and give services related to the intervention.

Better outcomes can be improved by identifying and staging interventions for infants suspected of having ASD. Low levels of sociability and poor language development are some of the major indicators. If someone has questions about their baby's development and suspects a disorder might be the cause of it, they should seek out help as soon as possible.

Signs of Autism in Toddlers and Young Children

One of the earliest indicators of ASD in children of toddler age is minimal social interactions.

Toddlers with ASD typically have a difficult time looking at people or engaging in play with their peers. They might not show much excitability in sharing their toys with other kids or in playing with them. Furthermore, they might also show a lack of response to hearing someone call their name.

The language that's delayed is another big indicator of ASD in toddlers.

Although the majority of toddlers begin forming multi-word phrases by the time they reach two years of age, toddlers diagnosed with ASD may not use words for communication. They might show extreme difficulty in understanding directions or following them.

Repetitive behaviors can also be indicators of a developmental disorder in toddlers.

young girl with autism

Toddlers with ASD could show repetitive behaviors, such as making loud noises over and over, moving their arms erratically, or twirling their hair. They may also become fixated on certain objects or routines, and become upset if these are disrupted.

Toddlers on the spectrum also show sensory impairments. They might be very sensitive to lights and specific noises.

Even something as small as the noise emitted from a dead battery on a smoke detector might cause intense disruption in the autistic, including those at a very young age. They could be incredibly sensitive to visual indicators to the point of resorting to jumping or spinning to cope with their environment.

Diagnosing Autism in Children

One of the beginning steps in diagnosing ASD in children is to have a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified pediatrician, psychiatrist, or both.

This may include developmental screening, and a brief assessment to find out if a young person is developing at a typical rate. If the screening hints at a possible delay in their development, a more in-depth evaluation is suggested.

The Importance of Early Detection and Intervention

Finding ASD early can lead to better intervention, something that's crucial for assisting children with the disorder learn essential social and communication skills necessary for success in school and later in life.

Early detection and intervention can also equip children with autism with coping mechanisms for managing sensory issues, which can significantly improve their overall quality of life.

One of the key advantages of detecting autism early is that it allows parents and people caring for patients a better understanding of a young person's behaviors, along with the things they need. It can lower anxiety and stress for children and their families.

Research indicates that interventions for ASD at an early stage can produce better improvements in the development of a child, especially in language and sociability.

Detection and intervention in the early stages can lower the chances of a child needing special needs services later on in their life.

Pinpointing and tackling autism symptoms early on can assist medical professionals in creating better interventions that can help kids on the spectrum with their ability to independently go about their lives. It lowers their need for therapies when they become older.

At the same time, detection at infancy or toddler age allows parents and caretakers better support networks, where more resources are available for the child they're looking after.

These include close work with medical professionals, taking part in support groups for ASD, and finding community organizations able to give services and support that might not have been known about previously.

What Causes Autism?

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. The exact cause of autism is still not fully understood, but research suggests that there may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors at play.

Studies have shown that genetics play a significant role in the development of autism. While there is no single gene that causes autism, researchers have identified several genes that may contribute to the disorder. In particular, mutations or changes in certain genes that regulate the development and function of the brain have been linked to autism.

In addition to genetics, there is growing evidence that environmental factors may also play a role in the development of autism.

Prenatal factors such as maternal infections, exposure to certain chemicals or drugs, and complications during pregnancy or birth have been associated with an increased risk of autism.

Furthermore, contemporary studies have highlighted epigenetics, which refers to the changes in gene expression that are influenced by environmental factors. Epigenetic changes can alter the way genes are activated or silenced, which can impact brain development and function and contribute to the development of autism.

It's also worth noting that the causes of ASD can differ from one individual to another. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to autism while others could be more susceptible to factors related to the environment. In some cases, the cause of ASD could be a mixture of genetic and environmental instances, whereby additional research is needed to understand the disorder's underlying causes.

What Parents Can Do

Here are some things that parents can do to recognize signs of autism in their kids:

  • Become knowledgeable about autism's early signs - Parents are advised to study the early signs of ASD, some of which might include poor eye contact when people are looking at them, delayed language abilities, problems with social interactions with people in general, and exhibited behaviors that become repetitive. Parents can get professional medical help in the initial stages by knowing precisely what to look out for.
  • Make detailed observations of a child's demeanor and behavior - Studying a kid's behavior and developmental accomplishments can help find more nuanced indicators of autism. When parents notice their children not responding well to their names or seeming uninterested in making social interactions, it may be an indicator of ASD.
  • Staying confident in what one sees - Parents should trust what they observe and look for professional help if they fall under the suspicion of their child having ASD. Early intervention can make a huge difference in the development of a child. Therefore, it's imperative to not procrastinate seeking help if your concerns become evident.
  • Making sure developmental milestones are kept track of - Staying on track with a child's development and sharing info with medical professionals can assist in autism's early detection. If a child isn't reaching some level of milestones or begins to lag behind what's normal for their age, help should be sought as soon as it can be.
  • Seeking out help when it's needed - If you have concerns about your child's development or behavior, it's essential to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare professional. This may include a pediatrician, a developmental pediatrician, or an autism specialist.


steven zauderer

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

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