If you buy something through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. (Disclosure policy).
  • Post last modified:December 12, 2020

warning signs of autism spectrum disorderPin

Are you worried that your child’s behavior fits within the warning signs of autism in babies and toddlers? Well, great that you are here! Taking early behavioral signs seriously can make a huge difference to your baby’s development if it turns out that something isn’t quite right.

Many years ago, I was at a dinner party with friends. Their gorgeous 2.5-year-old son was running around without any stops, and one of the guests commented that “he is so cute, running around like a little robot“.

A few months later I learned that just the day before that dinner party, the boy had been diagnosed with Autism. I can’t even imagine how painful that innocent Robot comment must have been for the parents!

This dinner party was over 10 years ago. At that time, at least I didn’t hear about children being diagnosed with Autism very often. Today, several research studies indicate that the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has exploded in the last five to ten years, and now parents are worried that perhaps their child falls somewhere on the spectrum. Certainly, the vast majority of children will not ever be diagnosed with ASD, and worrying about one or two “odd” behaviors or being late with some milestones, is just not going to make anyone happy.

But, early intervention has been proven effective in alleviating symptoms of Autism and providing children with ASD necessary language, social and academic skills. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner intervention can begin. So, ignoring obvious warning signs of autism will not be helpful either!

So what are Autism and ASD?

Autism is a spectrum disorder that encompasses a range of signs and symptoms, unique to each child that has it. Most children with ASD have developmental problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, relating to others and their environment, and being flexible with thought and behavior.

The causes of ASD (because there is no single cause) are to a large extent unknown. Researchers say “a combination of genetics and environmental factors may play a role.” May play a role. Like in “We don’t know”. Frustrating for sure.

What is known and observed are a number of risk factors:

  • Children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having ASD.
  • ASD tends to occur more often in people who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions
  • When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk of ASD
  • There is some evidence that the critical period for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth
  • Children born to older parents are at greater risk of having ASD.
  • A recent study also indicated autism rates are increased for very young parents, as well as parents with a wide age gap between them

Warning Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder to look for

Each child develops at a different pace so it is difficult to determine when a child will learn a particular skill but there are universal milestones that typically developed children will display during their development. It is a lack of these milestones or a regression in development, that may be an early indication that your child has ASD.

Warning Signs of Autism in Babies and Toddlers Younger Than 2 years

Early detection of Autism involves noticing the absence of normal behaviors, not the presence of abnormal ones. According to Autism Speaks and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the following delays should be immediately evaluated by your child’s pediatrician:

  • 6 Months: no big smiles or expressions of happiness
  • 9 Months: no reciprocation, or back-and-forth sharing, of sounds or facial expressions
  • 12 Months: does not respond to name, no babbling or “baby talk”, no reciprocation of gestures
  • 14 Months: does not point at objects or show interest
  • 16 Months: no spoken words
  • 18 Months: does not engage in simple pretend play actions
  • 24 Months: no meaningful and independent two-word phrases

The video below is an excellent introduction to signs of autism spectrum disorder in children younger than 2 years old.


Warning Signs of Autism in Toddlers Older Than 2 years

Although the signs may be present, Autism is not typically diagnosed before the age of 2 years old. After that age, you may begin to see some abnormal behaviors, such as:

  • avoiding eye contact
  • repeating words and phrases over and over
  • getting upset over minor changes
  • flat or inappropriate facial expressions
  • avoids or resists physical contact
  • lines up toys or other objects
  • hyperactivity or impulsivity
  • unusual eating and sleeping habits
  • lack of fear

An excellent video tutorial to detect signs of autism, including examples of children with normal and ASD behaviors respectively, is shown here:

What To Do As A Parent

As a parent, you can take some very proactive steps in determining early on whether or not your child has ASD. This begins by monitoring your child’s development and keeping the above delays in mind and always taking action if you’re concerned. Never feel that you should “wait-and-see” when it comes to your child’s development. If you notice anything concerning speak to your child’s doctor immediately. Always trust your instincts; you know your child better than anyone!

Some interesting studies have shown ASD behaviors be reversed completely with early intervention!

Below you’ll find some forum discussions here at Easy Baby Life, about babies or toddlers with possible ASD issues. You should also read this article on autism myths and misconceptions that parents often meet.

Share your thoughts and experience by commenting below or in the discussions. <3

Read Next

Excellent Books On Autism


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Bonnie johnson

    Why would my 4 month old hit herself in the stomach please need advice.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Bonnie,
      Have you read this article about why babies tend to hit themselves? At 4 months, I would assume that it could be either because she CAN and somehow finds it stimulating or that something is bothering her. Is she otherwise healthy and hitting her milestones? When and how often does she do this? What happens if you distract her, play with her? IS she social, likes meeting your eyes, cooing, etc?

      Since you are reading about autism, I assume you are worried that the hitting is a sign of autism. At 4 months, NOT interacting socially according to her age is the main early sign of autism according to research.

  2. Betina Stratford

    Please remove the word “warning” from your “signs of autism”. A warning indicates something that alerts you to something that you can prevent. It’s dire and instills dread. Please instead just use “signs” because those are just information, and will help you to approach your child as a human, not a disease.

    1. wilmings

      Nicely worded!

Comments are closed.