Signs of Autism

Autism is one of the widely prevalent developmental disorders in children, affecting 1 in 59 American children. Signs of autism can be identified as early as a few months of age with the average of diagnosis of around 3 years.

Last Updated: 23 October 2020

Signs of Autism
Signs of Autism

Autism is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because the signs of autism can range within a spectrum of mild to severe. Autism affects a child’s ability to socialize and communicate with others. Autistic children may also think and learn differently from non-autistic children. Some may have learning difficulties while some may have extraordinary learning abilities.

Early diagnosis of autism is often helpful in treating the symptoms of autism. Here are the common signs of autism. In addition, a child within the ASD spectrum can also exhibit other unique characteristics.

Typical signs of autism

No two children with autism would necessarily show similar signs of autism. However, certain differences in behavior, socialization and communication from normally developing children can be commonly assigned as signs of autism.

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Behavioral signs of autism

·         Repetitive actions like flapping hands, twirling fingers, rocking or spinning

·         Over sensitive or insensitive to sounds, lights, smells, feelings or touch

·         Gets extremely upset about a small change in the usual routine, activities or arrangements

·         Avoids touch contact from others

·         Exhibits unusual likes or extreme dislikes

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·         Unreasonable fear or anxiety

·         Attention deficit

·         Shows aggression or compulsive behavior

Playtime differences

·         Prefers the same toy or same set of toys to play with again and again

·         Most often arranges all the toys in a line formation. For example, lines up all the toy cars instead of running them on the floor

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·         Feels obsessed meddling with a particular part of the toy like the centerpiece of a ring racks or wheel of a toy car.

·         Does not show interest to play with other children

·         Lacks natural interest in make believe or pretend play games

Socialization challenges of autism

·         Avoids eye contact while facing or talking with others including the parents and family members

·         Does not respond when called by name or smiled at

·         Lacks the ability to understand others’ emotions

·         Does not follow directions like when pointing to something on the wall

·         Restricts coming in physical contact with others

·         Gets anxious or shows abnormal behavior in the presence of new people

·         Prefers to be alone

Language and communication impairments in children with autism

·         Delay in speech or no speech by 16 months

·         Difficulty in expressing wants and feelings

·         Repetition of the same phrases or words

·         Inappropriate usage of words

·         Inability to listen and reply to questions

Other signs of autism

·         Self-injuring behavior like punching or slapping

·         Regression, that is, shows signs of unlearning or forgetting language or other abilities by around 2 years

·         Unusual high capability or skill in something specific

Factors that affect the chances of autism

·         Autism in boys is seen four times higher than in girls

·         If the older sibling has autism, the chances in the younger one increases

·         If one twin is autistic, the other one is likely to develop autism

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends screening for autism for children at 18 months and 24 months in addition to the routine development screenings.


Observation of several signs of autism must be reported and discussed with a pediatrician who after initial screening may advice for a autism-specific therapist for further investigation. Autism cannot be cured completely but early diagnosis and therapy can reduce the severity of the symptoms and offer moral support to the parents and the child. 

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