Could It Be an Autism Spectrum Disorder? Learn the Signs

Your child avoids eye contact and prefers to play alone. When your child does play, he usually lines up toy cars. Could it be an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or just a developmental quirk? Read on to find out if it’s cause for concern or just a phase.

ASD is a neurological disorder that can have a variety of intellectual, social, behavioral, and communication problems. These problems can be mild or severe. There is no one test or symptom that indicates ASD. Instead, ASD is diagnosed based on several behavioral and neurological factors. These factors may be more apparent at different stages of development, though symptoms usually appear when a child is between 2 to 6 years old.

Early Signs of ASD

Children develop at their own rate, but certain developmental delays may suggest conditions that require treatment. Some early signs of ASD in children, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may include:

  • No response to their name by 12 months of age
  • Does not point at objects to show interest by 14 months
  • No pretend play games by 18 months
  • Avoiding eye contact and wants to be alone
  • Trouble understanding the feelings of others or talking about their own feelings
  • Delay in speech and language skills
  • Repetition of words or phrases over and over
  • Giving unrelated answers to questions
  • Getting upset by changes in routine
  • Having obsessive interests
  • Flapping hands, rocking their body, or spinning in circles
  • Having unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
  • Avoid or resist physical contact

ASD Screenings

Young children are screened at regular intervals for age-based milestones. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for ASD at 18 and 24 months of age.

The goal of screening is to identify children early and begin treatment right away. Early interventions can help develop effective support programs.

Trust Your Instincts

Parental feedback is often the first indicator and an important part of screening. You spend the most amount of time with your child, and you know your child better than anyone else. If you feel that your child isn’t meeting milestones, is behaving differently than you expect, or that there could be a problem with your child’s development, contact your child’s doctor.


Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Autism Association



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Signs and symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
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Updated February 26, 2015. Accessed February 8, 2016.
Learn the signs. Act early. Centers for Disease Control and prevention website. Available at:
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Updated January 27, 2014. Updated January 21, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2016.
Learn the signs of autism. Autism Speaks website. Available at:
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Accessed February 8, 2016.
Modified checklist for autism in toddlers, revised. Autism Speaks website. Available at:
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Accessed February 8, 2016.
Signs of autism. National Autism Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 8, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/8/2016

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