How to Recognize Early Symptoms of Autism

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Babies develop at different rates, and no two babies are the same. New parents look forward to certain developmental milestones such as the first smile, the first attempts at communication, the first time baby rolls over and the first time he sits unassisted.

These developmental milestones occur at different times for every child. The times can vary by weeks or even months. If your baby is not reaching these early developmental goals at all, of if he seems to be falling behind on the developmental charts, you should pay close attention to the signs.

The autism spectrum includes a wide array of developmental disorders ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Here are some early warning signs. If your child is displaying any of these symptoms, address your concerns with your pediatrician. Early detection is your greatest protection.

Does Your Baby Make Eye Contact?

Does your baby like to look at you? Does he respond with a smile? Does he watch you while you are feeding him, or does he turn his head away? If your baby is not making eye contact with you, or if he resists looking at you, consider it a potential red flag. Observe him closely, and try to engage him as much as you can. Report your observations to the doctor.

Does Your baby Respond to His Name?

If you speak to your baby, does he look in your direction and respond with cooing or smiling? Does he pay attention and respond when you call his name? Does he acknowledge a familiar voice? Does he turn his head to look at you when he hears your voice?

Does He Cuddle?

Most babies love to be held, rocked and cuddled. Does your baby stiffen up when you try to cuddle him? Does he squirm when you attempt to rock him? Does he seem distressed when you hug him? If so, add this to the list of symptoms you are going to discuss with the pediatrician.

Does He Use Appropriate Gestures for His Age?

Soon after his first birthday, your baby should be trying to communicate using gestures. Pointing at things, making facial expressions, and waving good-bye should be a part of your baby’s daily routine. If you notice an absence of these behaviors, it may be cause for concern.

These symptoms don’t always mean the child has autism, but they are indicators of developmental delays. Educate yourself about developmental milestones, and observe your baby for signs of possible abnormal behaviors. Early detection is critical to your child’s development and treatment. Be a forward thinking parent. Work with your child and his pediatrician to help your child be all that he can be.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Recognize Early Symptoms of Autism," in, February 21, 2016, (accessed September 30, 2022).