Autism is rooted in early brain development. However, you won’t notice any of its most obvious signs and symptoms until a child is between 12 – 18-months-old. In fact, a lot of children will develop normally up until that point when they’ll suddenly lose skills and develop autism – something that’s commonly referred to as “regression.” This is why most children aren’t diagnosed by a professional until they’re over 2-years-old.
Signs and Symptoms in Children Around 3-Months-Old
Your baby should be able to smile, babble and play at this time. However, if they’re not doing these things or they’re not interested in their hands or feet or trying to put objects in their mouth, you should be concerned.
Signs and Symptoms in 7-Month-Old Children
At this time your child should be very curious about the world around them and using their hands and mouth to explore it. He should also be playful, laughing, and responsive to your emotions – even acknowledging their name and the word “no.” If your child isn’t doing this or wanting to show any physical affection (even to the point of being difficult to soothe), you should be concerned. This is also true if he can’t roll over, hold up his head, or sit with some help.
Signs and Symptoms in 1-Year-Old Children
Your child should be a bit more emotional at this age — crying when you leave and acting uncomfortable around strangers. He should be aware of your presence, play games, and be able to communicate. If he’s still not standing or crawling, pointing to things he wants, playing games, or saying simple words, you should be concerned.
Signs and Symptoms in 2-Year-Old Children
By the time your child is about 2-years-old, he should start enjoying your company and interacting with other children. He should also start recognizing colors and shapes, and be able to play pretend. If he’s lacking these skills, not speaking in phrases (at least two words at a time), knows less than 15 words, can’t follow basic directions, doesn’t know what to do with basic objects (e.g. toothbrush, hairbrush, utensils, toy phone), then you could suspect autism. This is also true if your child still isn’t walking or is only walking on his tiptoes.
Signs and Symptoms in 3-Year-Old Children
The warning signs of autism are usually pretty clear by the age of 3. At this point your child should be able to interact appropriately with other children, understand basic concepts of fairness and appropriate social behaviors (e.g. how games work, taking turns, recognizing other people’s property), understand numbers and certain objects, and be able to “pretend” and play. If he isn’t doing these things or he’s avoiding eye contact, slurring his speech or drooling, can’t draw simple objects (e.g. a circle) or play with simple toys, or has severe separation anxiety, you have an issue you should speak to a professional about.