Autism Diagnosis

Signs for Infants and Children

Early signs of autism can often be detected in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder.

Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention (sharing an experience of observing an object or event by gazing or pointing), or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways, like lining them up or focusing on parts of toys rather than the whole. Parents who notice these signs, or are concerned their children are not meeting developmental milestones, should contact their pediatricians and request a developmental screening. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening of all infants for autism as part of 18-month and 24-month well-baby examinations. 

Learn more about the early warning signs of autism including milestones for development up to age 5 and what to do if you are concerned.

Early diagnosis and early intervention are critical. Studies show that about half of children with autism who are in an evidence-based early intervention program from age 3-5 can gain enough skills to be mainstreamed for kindergarten. There are now evidence based interventions for babies as young as 12 months old, and studies are underway to design treatments for 9 month old babies at risk for autism.

However, it is possible that an ASD does not go diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood. Significant social, learning or emotional difficulties can still be diagnosed as autism, even in adulthood. Symptoms that may have been previously misunderstood can be treated with proper therapies.  Just as getting a diagnosis at a young age opens the door to therapies and medications that can prove effective, an adult diagnosis can help improve the quality of life of higher-functioning autistic adults.