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Autism Characteristics: Signs, Symptoms and Red Flags

Signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders vary depending on age. There is huge variation in typical development.

The ways in which some of these characteristics are displayed may depend on developmental stage, cognitive ability and language ability.

Infants, toddlers and young children:
– Not responding to their name
– Avoiding eye contact
– Not point at objects or things of interest, or demonstrate interest
– Not smiling when you smile at them
– Getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound
– Repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
– Have no speech, delayed speech or unusual speech
– Not talking as much as other children
– Repeating the same phrases
– Line up toys or other objects
– Play with toys the same way every time
– Like to play with parts of objects (e.g., wheels) as opposed to the whole item


Autism in older, or more verbal, children:
– Struggle to talk and look at someone at the same time
– Have difficulty understanding, or showing understanding, or other people’s feelings
– Finding it hard to say how they feel
– Struggle with pretend games
– Liking routines and getting very upset if it changes
– Having an intense interest in certain subjects or activities
– Taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like “I could eat a horse”
– Struggle with social skills in many different ways


If your son/daughter has a range of issues that sound similar to those above, it may be time to start thinking about further evaluations.

Remember however, there is a large range of typical development. Some children are late bloomers. Some children have delays in just language. Some children may have a hearing loss that accounts for some of these issues. Some children may have had less opportunities to be social with other infants and toddlers. Some children may have a developmental delay that is not Autism.

However, if your son or daughter has a combination of difficult behaviors, sensory issues, communication and social issues then you should start to think about talking to your pediatrician, or Early Intervention providers, or start screening for ASD. If concerns are still present then a comprehensive evaluation may be necessary.

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