• Zorah Hilvert-Bruce

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Updated: Jun 28, 2019

As a parent, it can be scary to wonder if your child has a problem. Sometimes it will be easier to simply ignore the signs, brush off niggling thoughts, and attribute them to other causes. However, in regards to Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is important to catch it early. Treatment can reduce the disorder's effect and support your child as they learn, grow, and thrive.

So what should I look for? How do I know if I should be concerned? What is the difference between normal developmental delay and disordered delay?

Depending on where your child is at in their development, there will be different signs. If your child fits the below, speak with your doctor or give us a call for an initial screening appointment.


By end of 12 months

  • Does not pay attention to or frightened of new faces

  • Does not smile, does not follow moving object with eyes

  • Does not babble, laugh and has difficulty bringing objects to the mouth

  • Has no words

  • Does not turn head to locate sounds and appears not to respond to loud noises

  • Does not push down on legs when feet placed on a firm surface

  • Does not show affection to primary caregiver, dislikes being cuddled

  • Does not crawl, cannot stand when supported

  • Does not use gestures such as waving or pointing

By 24 months

  • Cannot walk by 18 months or walks only on his toes, cannot push a wheeled toy

  • Does not speak; does not imitate actions, cannot follow simple instructions

  • Does not appear to know the function of common household object such as a telephone by 15 months

By 36 months

  • Very limited speech, does not use short phrases, has difficulty in understanding simple instructions

  • Has little interest in other children, has difficulty separating from mother or primary care-giver

  • Difficulty in manipulating small objects

  • Has little interest in ‘make-believe’ play

  • Frequently falls, has difficulty with stairs


Social communication flags

  • The child generally does not point to or share observations or experiences with others

  • The child tends not to look directly at other people in a social way. This is sometimes referred to as a lack of eye contact

  • There may be an absence of speech, or unusual speech patterns such as repeating words and phrases (echolalia), failure to use ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘you’, or reversal of these pronouns

  • Unusual responses to other people. A child may show no desire to be cuddled, have a strong preference for familiar people and may appear to treat people as objects rather than a source of comfort

  • The child may appear to avoid social situations, preferring to be alone

  • There is limited development of play activities, particularly imaginative play

  • There may be constant crying or there may be an unusual absence of crying

Behavioural flags

  • The child often has marked repetitive movements, such as hand-shaking or flapping, prolonged rocking or spinning of objects

  • Many children develop an obsessive interest in certain toys or objects while ignoring other things

  • The child may have extreme resistance to change in routines and/or their environment

  • The child may be resistant to solid foods or may not accept a variety of foods in their diet

  • There are often difficulties with toilet training

  • The child may have sleeping problems

  • The child may be extremely distressed by certain noises and/or busy public places such as shopping centres

School Children

  • Issues with conversation, perhaps dominating conversations with their favourite topic and not knowing how to take turns.

  • Not being able to interpret the non-verbal communication of peers and adults.

  • Unusual speech patterns, a monotonous tone or an old fashioned way of talking.

  • Seeking solitude, and finding being with others very stressful and exhausting

  • Being rigid in following rules at school and in sport and games

  • Finding it hard to read social cues and the unwritten rules of friendship

  • Having unusual interests and obsessions, no breadth of interests

  • Sometimes there are unusual physical movements, such as touching, biting, rocking or finger flicking

  • Having sensory issues, either heightened or lack of sense of smell, touch, taste, sound and vision

  • Need to follow routines to feel secure, become very upset when expected routines change

  • Having few or no real friends

  • Aggression is sometimes seen, usually as a way of avoiding overwhelming situations

  • Anxiety is also common, especially as children enter the teenager years


  • Difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling

  • Trouble interpreting facial expressions, body language, or social cues

  • Difficulty regulating emotion

  • Inflection that does not reflect feelings

  • Difficulty maintaining the natural give-and-take of a conversation; prone to monologues

  • Strict daily routines, outbursts when changes occur

  • Deep knowledge of one particular topic

  • Relationships can be difficult

  • Adapting to the workplace can be a challenge

  • They find they are not comfortable in social situations, some people learn to adapt while for others it can be very isolating.

If your child is on the autism spectrum, the sooner they receive a diagnosis the sooner you can start providing them with the support and understanding they need to reach their full potential. While autism is usually diagnosed in childhood, increasing numbers of adults are finding out that they too are on the spectrum. It’s not uncommon for a parent, having had a child diagnosed with autism, to recognise traits of Autism in themselves.

The decision to seek a diagnosis as an adult is an individual one, with some people happy to remain self-diagnosed. However, if you believe that autism is negatively affecting your life, work and relationships, a formal diagnosis may lead to you receiving more emotional and financial support.

If you would like more information regarding our assessment process or to book an appointment, don't hesitate to contact us through the website or by phone.

Source: https://www.autismawareness.com.au/