As a parent, you know your child best.  If you suspect something isn't right, start a conversation with your pediatrician.  In the case of autism, sooner equals better, and more strides can be made when caught at a very early age.

The Signs of Autism


Why Sooner Equals Better?
Since brain development can be influenced during early childhood, early intervention is critical in the diagnosis and treatment of children with an autism spectrum disorder. A ground-breaking research study (Lovaas, 1987) found that with intensive, early behavioral interventions, nearly half (47%) of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were indistinguishable from their typically developing peers.  Numerous follow-up studies have supported the finding that early diagnosis and intensive behaviorally-based interventions are a child's best hope for reaching his or her full potential over the long term (Kasari, Freeman, & Paperella, 2006; Sallows & Graupner, 2005; McEachin, Smith & Lovaas, 1993). 

Research now suggests that children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism. The most important thing you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and understand the typical developmental milestones your child should be reaching at different ages. Please look over the following list. If you have any concerns about your child's development, don't wait.

Speak to your doctor about screening your child for autism. While validated screening for autism starts only as young as 16 months, the best bet for younger children is to have their development screened at every well visit with a highly validated developmental screening tool. If your child does have autism, early intervention may be his or her best hope.

(The following red flags may indicate a child is at risk for atypical development, and is in need of an immediate evaluation.)

In clinical terms, there are a few "absolute indicators," often referred to as "red flags," that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the "red flags" that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path.

If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:

 - No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
 - No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
 - No babbling by 12 months
 - No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
 - No words by 16 months
 - No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
 - Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

*This information has been provided by First Signs, Inc. ©2001-2012.  Reprinted with permission.  For more information about recognizing the early signs of developmental and behavioral disorders, please visit or the Centers for Disease Control at