Early Signs of Autism

Every child is different and every child develops at his or her own pace. However, there are specific developmental milestones that all children should be reaching by specific ages. If your child is not meeting milestones or you are concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait! Talk to your doctor.

The Autism Science Foundation is a partner in the CDC’s “Learn the Signs, Act Early Campaign”. The following early indicators of autism were developed by the experts in this program.

Get a PDF of these early warning signs. Also, read more about the importance of early diagnosis

If your child is two months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t respond to loud sounds
  • Doesn’t watch things as they move
  • Doesn’t smile at people
  • Doesn’t bring his/her hands to mouth
  • Can’t hold his/her head up when pushing up on tummy

If your child is four months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t watch things as they move
  • Doesn’t smile at people
  • Can’t hold his/her head steady
  • Doesn’t make sounds or coo
  • Doesn’t bring things to his/her mouth

If your child is six months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t reach for things
  • Show no affection for caregivers
  • Doesn’t respond to sounds around her/him
  • Doesn’t make vowel sounds (eh, ah, oh)
  • Doesn’t laugh or squeal
  • Seems unusually stiff or unusually floppy

If your child is nine months old,  you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t look where you point
  • Doesn’t respond to his/her own name
  • Doesn’t babble (mama, dada)
  • Doesn’t play back and forth type games
  • Doesn’t seem to recognize familiar people

If your child is one year old,  you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t point to things
  • Doesn’t learn gestures like waving bye bye, or shaking head yes or no
  • Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide
  • Doesn’t say single words like mama, dada, up, bye, this, that, juice
  • Doesn’t crawl
  • Loses skills he/she once had

If your child is 18 months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t point to show things to others
  • Doesn’t know what familiar things (cup, spoon, phone) are used for
  • Doesn’t imitate or copy others
  • Doesn’t have at least six words
  • Doesn’t gain new words
  • Doesn’t notice or react when a caregiver leaves or returns
  • Doesn’t walk
  • Loses skills he/she once had

If your child is 2 years, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (mama up, want milk)
  • Doesn’t know what familiar things (cup, spoon, phone) are used for
  • Doesn’t imitate actions and words
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Doesn’t walk steadily
  • Loses skills he/she once had

If your child is 3 years old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Has unclear speech or drools a lot
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Can’t work simple toys (simple puzzles, turning knobs/handles, peg board)
  • Shows little interest in toys
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children
  • Doesn’t play make believe or pretend
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Falls down often or has trouble on stairs
  • Loses skills he/she once had

If your child is 4 years old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Ignores other children
  • Doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Shows no interest in make believe or pretending games
  • Can’t retell a favorite story
  • Doesn’t follow 3-step directions
  • Doesn’t use “you” and “me” correctly
  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
  • Speaks unclearly
  • Doesn’t scribble or has trouble scribbling with a crayon
  • Loses skills he/she once had

If your child is 5 years old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:

  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Shows behavioral extremes (unusually aggressive, fearful, sad, shy)
  • Is unusually withdrawn and not active in social situations
  • Is easily distracted and has trouble focusing on an activity for more than five minutes
  • Doesn’t respond to people or responds only superficially
  • Can’t tell the difference between real and make believe
  • Doesn’t participate in a wide variety of games and activities
  • Can’t give his/her first and last name
  • Doesn’t use plurals, pronouns or past tense properly
  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities
  • Doesn’t draw pictures
  • Loses skills he/she once had

Signs of autism in older children, teens and adults:

  • Impared social skills
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Rigid adherence to daily activities
  • Unusual interests or obsessive/repetitive behaviors
  • Being highly sensitive or underresponsive to sound, light or touch