HEALTHATHON: Question 3: Signs of Autism

3. What are some of the signs of Autism you should be looking for with children?



Dr. Kari Miller:

Communication, social, repetitive behaviors


The following is a red flag list for autism—any child demonstrating these symptoms should be evaluated for ASD:


Speech and Language:

Does not babble or coo by 12 months

Does not gesture (i.e., point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months

Does not say single words by 16 months

Displays echolalia (i.e., repeating back what someone just said in a meaningless way) in the absence of normal language development

Does not say two-word phrases spontaneously by 24 months

Loses previously acquired language or social skills


Social Skills:

Does not respond to own name

Does not smile when smiled at

Has poor eye contact

At times seems to be hearing impaired

Does not seem interested in other children

Difficulty initiating conversation

“Mind blindness” or “theory of mind” limits child’s ability to understand the thoughts and emotions of others


Behavioral Issues:

Insistence on routine and sameness

Does not play imaginatively with toys

Throws intense or violent temper tantrums

Reactions seem uncharacteristic of the situation

Has odd movement patterns

Move fingers in front or side of eyes

Taps self on the head, rocks, spins in circles, etc.

May have restricted diet (may prefer a “white” diet—bread, pasta, fries

Gets “stuck” on things over and over and cannot move on to other things

Shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (e.g., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants)


May have Sensory/Motor issues:

Hypersensitivity to one or more environmental stimuli:  lights, sounds, touch, textures

Auditory processing difficulty

One sided crawling

Visual processing issues

Writing painful or difficult to read

Amy Hummel:

Missing developmental milestones – developmental delays (smile, eye contact, babbling, pointing, reaching)

·         Loss of words/vocabulary

·         Playing on own as opposed to with groups (link to video glossary showing neurotypical and child with autism

·         Learn the signs document attached

Abby Twyman:

The three core areas which define the criteria for an autism diagnosis are deficits in communication, deficits in social interaction skills and excesses in restrictive or repetitive behaviors. Some early signs parents might notice are limited eye contact, limited engagement in social games, limited use of or response to shared attention (i.e. pointing, looking, smiling), limited development of receptive and/or expressive communication, use of repetitive or non-functional language (i.e. scripting or echolalia), repetitive interests or atypical use of toys, reliance on leading by the hand to communicate needs, and/or stereotypical body movements (i.e. rocking, spinning, hand flapping, etc.). This is not an exhaustive list of signs to look for, but these are some of the main indicators.

Studies done on siblings of individuals with autism who were later diagnosed with autism indicated that some signs can be seen as young as 6 months of age. Diagnosis is not typically made, however, until after 18 months of age. If you are concerned about your child’s development it is important to act on those concerns and have your child evaluated by a developmental pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist.



Question 1: 3 Myths of Autism

Question 2: Vaccines and Autism


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