Understanding The Early Signs Of Autism In Toddlers

The first few years of a child’s development are a time of dynamic physical, social, and cognitive growth and development. It can be an exciting and joyous time for parents to watch their little ones grow up. But what happens when something seems off? What if your child isn’t behaving and developing the way other babies their age seem to?

As parents, it is important to keep a close check on their children during their developmental years. When you are up close and personal with your child at this time, you are able to spot the most subtle signs of something being different.

If you have a knowledge of what to look at, you will be able to look at the slightest signs of developmental differences like autism in your child. While autism occurs on a spectrum, and the signs are never the same for two people, some early signs of the condition are more common than others. Early intervention and diagnosis are keys to effective treatment – being able to detect these signs of autism in toddlers is highly crucial. 

To help you gain a better understanding, let us dive deeper into the various signs of autism in toddlers.

signs of autism in toddlers

Signs Of Autism In Toddlers

1. Declining eye contact. 

Babies tend to make frequent eye-contacts with almost everyone around them. Infants can make skillful eye contact and locate faces as early as two months. These eye contacts are significant as they help the child build social connections with their environment as they grow up.  

Research by the National Institute of Health has found that children who develop autism spectrum disorders (ASD) start making less eye contact at around two months. This decline in eye contact can be a potent indicator of ASD.

2. Little to no responses.

Apart from eye contact, the signs of autism in toddlers can include non-communication signals. These include:

  • not reciprocating smiles or facial expressions directed toward them,
  • not showing any facial expressions attached to their emotions by nine months, or
  • not responding to their name by nine months.

Children with autism can slowly develop these facial expressions. However, in typical cases, they do not occur in response to others’ feelings toward them.

Read more: National Autism Acceptance Month – Turning Awareness Into Action

3. Communication Deficits

Speaking and communication-related signs can also be potent indicators of autism in toddlers. Research by Nachum Sicherman found that reduced communication and language delays can be signs of autism in toddlers. 

4. Stereotyped movements

Stereotyped movements are actions that are both repetitive and aimless in nature. Some of the early signs of autism in toddlers include stereotypic actions like:

  • flapping arms, 
  • dabbing the feet, or 
  • whirling fingers.

Read more: World Autism Awareness Week 2023 – Busting The Myths

5. Regressive developments.

Losing abilities and skills that the child has begun to develop is another one of the signs of autism in toddlers. This can be a challenging situation for parents and caregivers. Researchers worldwide have yet to determine why regression happens. However, as per research by Nouf Backer Al Backer, one-third of children with autism lose skills at some point. In above 90% of cases, language is generally the lost skill. 

What to do if you notice early signs of autism in toddlers?

It is important to include a pediatrician or doctor as soon as you notice any signs of autism in your child. By waiting, you are actually wasting crucial time. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner your child can get the required services for them.

Screening and testing for autism are available at 18 and 24 months by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). To screen the children, medical professionals follow a two-step process that involves evaluating a child’s development and growth. If they detect any warning signs, they refer the child for further evaluation. In the second stage, an expert in ASD diagnoses evaluates the child. This stage includes various medical and neurological examinations. Hearing and blood tests might also be performed. 

While there is no clear treatment for autism, parents can work around with professionals to determine the right care and support for their child. This could include both medications and behavioral and psychological therapy.


Autism spectrum disorders can manifest in children at an early age. Therefore, it is essential for parents to keep a close eye on their child’s development process and report any different signs to the doctor. 

Finding out your child has a neurodevelopmental condition like ASD can be extremely tough for parents. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through this time.

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