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Understanding Autism: Signs, Symptoms, and When to Seek Evaluation

What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms are different in each person.

The severity and combination of symptoms can differ from person to person as there is a large range of characteristics of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is important to understand that no two children behave the same way and that symptoms can range from mild to severe and can often change over time.

ASD can be diagnosed as early as 2 years old, with some symptoms showing as early as 12 months and others occurring much later. Some children with ASD gain new skills and meet their developmental milestones until around 18-24 months before losing the skills they once had or stop gaining new skills.

What are the signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Individuals with ASD may behave, communicate, learn and interact in ways that are different than neurotypical individuals. In addition, the abilities of individuals with ASD can widely vary.


Social skills can be challenging for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Avoids or does not respond to eye contact

  • Does not respond to name by 9 months

  • Does not show facial expressions (happy, sad, angry etc) by 9 months

  • Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age

  • Does not point or look at what you point to by 18 months of age

  • Shows little interest in peers


Individuals with ASD often have behaviors and interests that can differ from neurotypical individuals

  • Repeats words/phrases over and over

  • Gets upset by minor changes

  • Has obsessive interests

  • Flapping hands

  • Rocking body

  • Unusual reactions to sensory input

  • Lines up toys or other objects

  • Rigid routines


  • Unusual mood or emotional regulation

  • Hyperactive and/or inattentive behavior

  • Delayed cognitive skills

  • Delayed movement skills

  • Delayed language skills

  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits


The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all children be screened for autism around 18-24 months.

If you are concerned your child may have ASD, speak to your pediatrician about receiving a full evaluation. These evaluations can be done by a neurologist, behavior pediatrician or psychiatrist. If your child is diagnosed with autism, speak to your doctor about your child's individualized treatment plan.


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