The main signs and symptoms of autism involve problems with communication, social interactions, and stereotyped or repetitive behavior and restricted interests. According to the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), red flags for parents of young children may include some or many of the behaviors within the following categories:
Does not respond to his/her name by 12 months of age
Cannot explain what he/she wants
Language skills are slow to develop or speech is delayed
Doesn't follow directions
Seems to hear sometimes, but not other times
Doesn't point or wave "bye-bye"
Used to say a few words or babble, but now does not
Doesn't smile when smiled at
Has poor eye contact
Seems to prefer to play alone
Seems to be in his/her "own world"
Seems to tune people out
Is not interested in other children
Doesn't point out interesting objects by 14 months of age
Doesn't like to play "peek-a-boo"
Gets "stuck" doing the same things over and over and can't move on to other things
Shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or routines (for example, always holding a string or having to put on socks before pants)
Spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order
Repeats words or phrases (sometimes called echolalia [pronounced ek-oh-LEY-lee-uh])
Doesn't play "make believe" or pretend by 18 months of age
Has odd movement patterns
Doesn't play with toys the way other children do
Walks on his/her toes
Doesn't imitate silly faces
Seems to stare at nothing or wander around with no purpose
Seems overly sensitive to noise
The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is a validated developmental screening tool for toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age. It is designed to identify young children who may benefit from a more thorough developmental and autism evaluation. To take the quiz, go to https://www.m-chat.org.
It’s important to remember that because the symptoms of autism fall on a spectrum, there is considerable variation in the number and severity that any given child or adult may exhibit. As children grow older symptoms may change in how they are expressed, or improve with treatments.