According to studies and statistics to date, one out of every 86 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Increasing awareness, developing technology, increasing research and clinical studies make a big difference at the point of early intervention. Although it usually does not seem logical to diagnose autism before the age of 3, certain signs are clearly observed in children with autism under the age of 3. Although not clearly observable, inferences can also be made, and at least symptoms can be understood by a professional when they are observed.
Autism is a disorder that can develop at various ages and months, or that can be noticed in different time periods. Some babies may show early signs of autism. While some babies develop normally until they are 15-30 months old, they may develop autism symptoms later on. There are different control methods for autism. These are two-stage checklists that primary caregivers will score points on. These types of tests are screening tests to evaluate the risk of autism spectrum disorder.
Although the early symptoms of autism are difficult to understand, they are not impossible to understand. If primary caregivers or doctors can diagnose a baby with autism, it will be very beneficial for their quality of life in the future. With the applied proper treatment, the development of the baby’s brain can significantly improve. Autism symptoms usually appear between 12 and 18 months. However, caregivers should also pay attention to the signs of autism later on. These first signs can be mistaken for a well-behaved baby since both babies are quiet, independent, and reluctant.
Autism signs in babies manifest themselves in many different ways. It usually occurs in infancy and early childhood. So it can be confused with some basic infantile behaviors. Signs and conditions can be discerned from delays in key developmental areas.
As we mentioned above, both the symptoms and effects of autism are very diverse. Their levels may also differ. While some babies have milder delays, some babies may have behaviors that are difficult to overcome. In addition, there are classical behaviors observed in the majority of children with an autism spectrum disorder. These are poor communication, lack of interest, and the capacity to think very differently. Each specialist’s approach to autism and autism treatment is different. However, it is generally accepted that early intervention helps a lot. Early intervention can make a noticeable difference in children at risk.
The most important point is not to give up hope for your child’s development process. If early diagnosis and the right treatment are applied, the effects of autism can be reduced and contribute to your child’s development process.
Autism Signs in Babies 3 Months
- They do not react to any sound, especially loud noises.
- They are not able to follow objects when they are moved in front of their eyes.
- They do not grasp objects; they are not even intended to hold.
- They do not pay attention to faces around them, even the new ones.
Autism Signs in Babies 6 Months
- They do not smile even though their smile doesn’t have a target at that month, if they are on the autism spectrum, they do not show any smile and joyful expressions.
- They do not make eye contact even with their primary caregivers.
Autism Signs in Babies 7 Months
- They do not show any affection to their primary caregivers.
- They do not smile even when they are alone.
- They do not turn their head at all towards sounds, noise, or even voices.
- There will be no interest observed through games such as peekaboo that every child loves.
- It is not easy to attract their attention by any actions.
- They do not show any sign to reach the objects they want to get.
Autism Signs in Babies 9 Months
- They keep continuing not to smile which is not a wanted situation.
- They do not exhibit any facial expressions to their primary caregivers.
Autism Signs in Babies 12 Months
- They do not make any babbling (meaningless) sounds.
- They do not mimic any basic gestures such as pointing, waving, showing, or reaching.
- There is no response from them when they are called by their names.
- They are expected to crawl until that time, however, babies in the autism spectrum do not show even sing for crawling.
- They do not say single words.
Autism Signs in Babies 16 Months
- They are not able to comprehend any words.
Autism Signs in Babies 24 Months
- They are not able to engage in any meaningful phrases. It doesn’t count when they repeat or imitate what they hear.
- They are not able to work.
- Their word knowledge is highly limited. They can speak around 15 words only.
- They do not imitate.
- They are not able to push their wheeled toys since they do not walk or crawl properly.
- Simple instructions are very difficult for them to follow.
- They do not engage in imaginative play. They are not able to know the function of common objects and imply to play them differently. For example, playing with a fork as a phone.
These signs do not have to follow each other. They can be observed at different times. It depends on the child’s development and the environment they live in. It is better to accept these signs as a set of specific behaviors.
Observing any of these signs alone may not be a big deal. However, simultaneous observation of more than one sign may indicate the need for at least a screening or diagnostic evaluation. You can accept these signs as a general guideline. If you are observing 4 or more of the listed symptoms in your baby, taking your baby to a professional and getting autism screened will benefit both your baby and you in the long run. If you are observing 8 or more of the listed symptoms, it is better not to wait a second. These early signs will be to your advantage. Early intervention should be started fairly early.
Signs of Autism in Babies Under 12 Months
- They usually don’t look at people’s faces.
- They are indifferent to faces.
- They don’t make eye contact.
- They do not smile or look directly at their primary caregivers.
- They are not sensitive to the sounds around them. They don’t respond to their names. They do not try to understand other sounds coming from outside, they do not look around to understand.
- They do not like excessive attention. They don’t want to be in the lap all the time.
- They don’t like the traditional games we all know.
- The first signs of speech are not observed.
- They do not understand body language. They do not use body language.
Signs of Autism in Babies 12-24 Months
- They do not use body language, do not shake their heads, and do not show the object they want by pointing.
- They don’t pay attention to their surroundings. They do not show interest in objects. (14-16 months old babies point to the objects that are of interest and want.)
- Normally, they are expected to be able to speak one-word speech at 16 months and two-word phrases at 24 months, but this is not observed if your child is on the autism spectrum.
- They are drawn into their own world. They are not interested in what is going on around them, they act as if they don’t exist.
- They can be observed to walk on their toes or show no signs of walking at all.
Signs of Autism in Babies 2 Years and Older
- Language development is delayed. They have difficulty communicating and expressing their wishes. Some children with autism don’t talk at all. Some do not communicate even if they speak. While it may be optional, it can also be observed due to developmental delay.
- Their conversations do not flow normally. Contains unusual words. They usually speak very slowly. They hesitate from the words they say.
- They often do not understand what is being said, they do not seem to understand. They don’t do what they are told. They can be insensitive to their names.
- They may show sudden mood swings. They may scream or start laughing at unexpected moments.
- They are selective. They may become too focused on certain objects, parts, or subject matter.
- They do not like group games or being in crowds. They prefer to be alone. They are also not good at imitation and repetition. These behaviors are rarely observed.
- They exhibit stubborn behaviors. They have difficulty moving from one task to the next. Any change in their routine or environment stresses them out.
- They are quite conservative and fixed about food. They often eat the same thing. They prefer simple foods.
- They tend to play with objects in different and interesting ways. They play by stacking objects and toys next to each other. They have an interest in opening and closing doors. They may develop an obsession with things like the on/off switch.
- They can harm themselves. They may exhibit behaviors of biting and hitting themselves.
- They begin to exhibit repetitive behaviors at this stage.
- They are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. They may be sensitive to sounds, smells, and textures. They may refuse to eat most foods or wear most clothes. They are particularly sensitive to labels when it comes to clothes.
- They may react differently to pain, sometimes excessively, sometimes not at all. While it doesn’t matter when they bleed, they can cover their ears while listening to loud music.
- In general, they react differently than children who complete normal development. They may enjoy going high while being afraid of a feather.
- Sleep disorders are a very common condition. They may have trouble falling asleep, they may wake up in the middle of the night, or they may wake up quite early before they do not sleep well enough.
- Behavioral problems are also inevitable problems among children on the autism spectrum. It usually co-occurs with hyperactivity or can be confused with ADHD. They are hyperactive. They tend to act recklessly. They are often extremely stubborn.
Recognizing and Understanding Signs of Autism
As a parent, you need to trust your instincts and feelings first, since you are the person who knows their children best. You can understand better than anyone if there is a problem in your child’s development. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, it is better to take your child to the pediatrician as soon as possible and get advice from a professional. If there is a delay or problem, it is better to discuss it with a pediatrician and seek proper and applicable treatment together. Apart from all of these, there are some fundamental signs that you need to take into consideration before taking your child to the pediatrician. You need to keep in mind that symptoms of autism and the severity of these symptoms can vary a lot from child to child.
Signs in Social Life
- Eye contact: They do not make any eye contact or keep eye contact.
- Facial expressions: They show or give a response to any facial expressions. Especially they are not able to show or understand smiling. They do not demonstrate appropriate facial expressions in any situation.
- Following objects: They do not look at any objects that their primary caregivers point to.
- Pointing: They do not point any objects or actions that get their attention.
- Interest level: They do not show any interest in more or less everything around them.
- Empathy: They are not able to understand people’s feelings or thoughts from their facial expressions. They do not show any concerns for the people around them.
- It is not easy to make friends with them. Even they have friends, it is difficult to keep that friendship for a long time.
Sings in Communication
- Pointing: They are not prone to point any object, person, or action in order to exhibit their needs.
- Speaking: They may not speak at all. Or, they may have limited speech. If they become 15 months and there is still no word and if they become 2 years old and there are no 2-word phrases, then it can be counted as a symptom of autism.
- Echoing: It can be accepted as parroting as well. It means that they repeat exactly what they hear and what other people around them say. There is no meaning in that kind of speech.
- They do respond to the sound of the object or animal but not the name of those objects or animals. For example, they respond to a cat’s meow, but they do not respond when you say cat.
- Pronouns: They may mix up them. They may call themselves “you” since everyone around them calls them “you”.
- Communicating: It is not attractive for them at all. It is not something that they want to get involved in. They show no or less interest.
- Conversation: They are not interested in starting or continuing.
- Pretend play: They do not use objects as a toy since they do not understand the meaning behind them.
- Rote memory: Even though they are not good at comprehending and implying, they may have a good rote memory. They can be very good at memorizing numbers, songs, jingles, or specific topics if they get their interests.
- Regression: They may lose some milestones in their development, especially between the age of 15 months and 2 years.
Sings in Behaviors
- Stereotypic behaviors: Rocking, spinning, finger twirling, tiptoeing, flapping hands are very common repetitive behaviors.
- Routines: They like to follow routines and they are happy with routines, rituals, and orders. They have difficulties when their routines change. The transition from one activity to another is very difficult for them.
- Obsession: As a result of having routines and rituals, they may be obsessed with some activities and doing them repeatedly.
- Plays: They are prone to play with a specific part of the toy instead of the whole toy. For example, they may play with the wheel of the toy only by spinning the wheel.
- Cry: Their pain and fear levels are quite different. Like other emotions, they do not show any expression when they are in pain or have any fear. It is not certain whether they do not feel at all, or do not know how to express themselves.
- Sensitivity: They may be overly sensitive to smells, lights, touch, sounds, and textures or they may not even recognize.
- Vision/ gaze: They may look at objects from different angles, these angles are most unusual that anyone even cannot even think.
Signs of High-Functioning Autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) in Babies
Children on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum are very rare compared to others and they have very high levels of intelligence. Even though they still have difficulties with social skills and language, they may be very good at some specific subjects. Again, the severity varies, and each child experiences it in different degrees. If a child is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, it is most difficult to defect when they are in the childhood period. They are mostly diagnosed later in adolescence or adulthood when they engage in different environments. Nevertheless, there are some specific signs of high-functioning autism in babies:
- They have limited social skills and social interaction, or not at all.
- They may speak with limited vocabulary knowledge, or they speak in robotic patterns without any emotions.
- They are above average at verbal skills and facial expressions compared to others on the autism spectrum.
- They talk with themselves very frequently, instead of showing reactions to people around them.
- They may have involved conversations but make no eye contact.
- They mostly have one-sided conversations instead of back-and-forth conversations.
- They stick to routines, rituals, patterns, and orders.
- They have unusual mannerisms but are happy with it.
Treatment for Autism in Babies
Autism is not a disorder that can be developed later or inherited from someone else. Children with autism are often born this way. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder. There is no treatment. Individuals with autism are individuals with autism throughout their lives, but the severity of the symptoms decreases thanks to the therapies and interventions they receive and they do not need to reduce their living standards in this way.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is no treatment for autism spectrum disorder yet. Fortunately, a variety of interventions have been designed by professionals that can reduce the severity of symptoms, improve quality of life, and improve the child’s abilities and social skills.
Early diagnosis and early intervention have a great impact on children with autism. This effect becomes a lifetime. You will have the opportunity to guide your child, you will help them live without reducing their quality of life, and there will be no harm to family relationships dynamics.
If we accept that autism is a spectrum, we also accept that the effect of ASD differs from baby to baby. The treatment plan is also customized for each baby based on his or her needs. Multidisciplinary treatment plans, which are observed to be very beneficial and convenient today, may be required with active parent participation.
Since certain developmental stages are usually affected in children with autism, the behavioral intervention strategy is also created in that direction. These stages are communication abilities, social skills, interests, and stereotypical behaviors, and intervention strategies tend to develop them.
As the baby grows, different treatment methods can be followed. These methods may be speech therapy, drug therapy, or occupational therapy. After the baby reaches early childhood, many treatment methods and intervention strategies become applicable.
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