The Early Signs of Autism

Would you have a fairly comprehensive list of the early signs and symptoms of autism?

The signs and symptoms of autism vary widely, as do its effects. Some autistic kids have only mild impairments, while others have more obstacles to overcome. However, every child on the autism spectrum has problems, at least to some degree, in the following three areas:

1. Thinking and behaving flexibly
2. Relating to others and the world around them
3. Communicating verbally and non-verbally

Here is a comprehensive list of the early signs of autism:

1. Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g., walking exclusively on tiptoe)
2. Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them
3. Avoids eye contact
4. Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests
5. Doesn’t follow objects visually
6. Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out
7. Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions
8. Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling
9. Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
10. Doesn’t make noises to get your attention
11. Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
12. Doesn’t play "pretend" games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways
13. Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
14. Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
15. Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her
16. Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or questions
17. Doesn't point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate
18. Doesn't respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice
19. Doesn't share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys)
20. Doesn't smile when smiled at
21. Follows a rigid routine (e.g., insists on taking a specific route to school)
22. Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment (e.g., throws a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged or bedtime is at a different time than usual)
23. Has difficulty communicating needs or desires
24. Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings
25. Makes very few gestures (e.g., pointing)
26. May be especially sensitive to loud noises
27. May come across as cold or “robot-like”
28. Misses undertones of humor, irony, and sarcasm
29. Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order
30. Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled
31. Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest often involving numbers or symbols (e.g., memorizing and reciting facts about maps, train schedules, or sports statistics)
32. Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds
33. Refers to themselves in the third person
34. Repeats the same words or phrases over and over
35. Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it
36. Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch (e.g., ends every sentence as if asking a question)
37. Spends long periods of time arranging toys in specific ways, watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car
38. Takes what is said too literally
39. Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects (e.g., keys, light switches, or rubber bands)
40. Uses facial expressions that don't match what he or she is saying
41. Uses language incorrectly (e.g., grammatical errors, wrong words)
42. Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again (e.g., flapping hands, rocking, or twirling, other self-stimulatory behavior called “stimming”)

Common self-stimulatory (stimming) behaviors include:

1. Finger flicking
2. Flicking light switches on and off
3. Hand flapping
4. Head banging
5. Lining up toys
6. Moving fingers in front of the eyes
7. Repeating words or noises
8. Rocking back and forth
9. Scratching
10. Snapping fingers
11. Spinning in a circle
12. Spinning objects
13. Staring at lights
14. Tapping ears
15. Watching moving objects
16. Wheel spinning

If you have observed any of these red flags for autism, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Actually, it’s a good idea to have your child screened even if he or she is hitting the developmental milestones on schedule.

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