min read
May 3, 2024

Early Signs of Autism and What to do About Them

Typically autism is diagnosed around 2-3 years old. However, infants as young as 6 months old can exhibit already signs of autism. Acting early can transform a child's journey with autism.

Written by the apricott team

About Autism
early signs of autism child

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior.

Research continues to explore what causes autism, with both genetic and environmental factors believed to play a role.

Recognizing the early signs of autism can lead to early intervention and improved outcomes.

In this article, we'll discuss the early signs of autism and what you can do about them.

When Do Signs of Autism First Appear?

The signs of autism can appear in infants as young as 6 months old, but they are typically diagnosed around 2-3 years old.

Typically autism is diagnosed around 2-3 years old. However, infants as young as 6 months old can exhibit already signs of autism.  

It's important to note that every child develops at their own pace. A delay in reaching a developmental milestone doesn't necessarily mean the child has autism.

Other factors may be involved.

For example, growing up in a multilingual environment can delay speaking. Or, living a stressful environment can impact a child's development.

If you have concerns about your child's development, it's important to speak with your pediatrician.

While signs and symptoms may start to appear, an official diagnosis happens a bit later.

When is Autism Diagnosed?

Autism is diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation that looks at a child's behavior and development.

In some cases, an autism diagnosis may be made as early as 18 months of age.

However, a diagnosis is considered more reliable close to the age of 2.

Some children don't get diagnosed until later in life, and end up missing on important help and coping strategies they need.

The CDC publishes a list of developmental milestones that children are expected to reach at different ages.

These milestones include events like smiling for the first time, waving bye bye,  and learning how to play with others.

Missing multiple of these milestones may be an early sign.

Early Autism Signs in Babies

Autism signs can be quiet and might seem like regular baby behavior.

But it's good to know what to look for. That way, we can help our little ones as soon as possible.

By simply watching your baby's actions, you might notice signs as early as 6 months.

Here are some early signs of autism in babies:

Signs by 6 months old

  • Lack of eye contact or social smiling
  • No cooing or babbling sounds
  • Doesn't take turns making sounds with you

Signs by 9 months old

  • Not responding to their name
  • No facial emotions like sad, angry, happy
  • Doesn't understand how to play peek-a-boo

Signs by 12 months old

  • No first words
  • Doesn't wave good bye
  • Not using gestures, such as pointing or waving

Early Autism Signs in Toddlers

As toddlers grow, they hit certain milestones.

This makes it a bit easier to spot signs of autism because they'll be doing more things.

Signs of autism tend to stand out more clearly. This makes a diagnosis more reliable.

Just like before, if you keep a close watch on how your toddler behaves, you might see signs as early as 18 months.

Here are some early signs of autism in toddlers:

Signs by 18 months old

  • Lack of words
  • Doesn't point and share with others
  • Doesn't show excitement like clapping

Signs by 2 years old

  • Doesn't notice when others are upset
  • Can't speak more than one word
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as rocking or hand-flapping
  • Obsessive interests in certain objects or topics

Signs by 3 years old

  • Difficulty with social interactions and communication
  • Lack of interest in playing with other children
  • Delayed speech or language skills may be indicative of nonverbal autism

When to get Help

It's natural for every child's growth journey to be unique.

But there are moments when seeking guidance becomes essential.

If a caregiver, be it a babysitter or a preschool teacher, points out differences in your child's behavior or development, it's a hint that you should delve deeper.

Similarly, if you've spotted various signs or feel they're missing milestones, it's worth talking about.

Routine health check-ups with doctors or nurses are more than just measuring weight and height. They often assess developmental monitoring, a watchful eye on whether your child is hitting the expected milestones, like playing and speaking, for their age.

Doctors advise screenings at certain ages, such as 9, 18, and 30 months, with specific checks for ASD at 18 and 24 months. These screenings, involving detailed questionnaires, can sometimes hint at a need for a deeper dive into your child's development. This might involve specialists who can provide a clearer picture of where your child stands.

In essence, if something feels off or if someone mentions a concern, it's always a good move to consult. Early advice can pave the way for the best support for your child.

Importance of Early Intervention

Early intervention is key when it comes to treating autism. Research shows that early, intensive behavioral intervention can lead to improvements in behavior, communication, and social skills. Treatments like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can alter behavior, improving quality of life and improving skills.

Acting early can transform a child's journey with autism.

Early intervention taps into a child's developing brain, optimizing their learning potential.

Applied Behavior Analysis is a proven method that benefits significantly from an early start.

By catching potential challenges early on, therapies like ABA can be tailored to a child's specific needs.

This early attention can lead to better communication, improved social interactions, and positive behavioral shifts.

In essence, the sooner we intervene, the brighter the future we can help craft for children with autism.

They not only learn essential skills faster but also find more joy in their day-to-day lives.

Additional Questions

When might my child first show signs of autism?

Signs of autism can appear as early as during the first few months of a child's life.

However, many children show noticeable signs by their second birthday.

Every child is unique, so the range and intensity of signs can vary widely.

What are the red flags for Autism?

Watch closely for delays in speech, challenges in non-verbal communication, or a lack of interest in playing with other kids. Repetitive behaviors can also be a sign.

It's crucial to take note if a caregiver or teacher mentions that your child seems behind in reaching developmental milestones.

Whenever in doubt about your child's progress or if there's a sudden regression, promptly consult with a pediatrician.

How do you rule out autism in babies?

A definitive diagnosis often involves evaluations by specialists.

Regular developmental monitoring and screenings during pediatrician visits can provide insights.

If concerns arise, further evaluations will offer a clearer picture of your child's development.


If you have additional questions about early signs of autism or concerns about your child's development, talk to your pediatrician.

They can provide guidance and connect you with resources in your community.

Remember, recognizing the early signs of autism can lead to early intervention and improved outcomes.

With the right support and treatment, children with autism can thrive.





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