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What Are the Signs of Autism?

What Are the Signs of Autism?

Knowing the Signs of Autism

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with boys being 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. However, oftentimes children with autism show subtle developmental differences when they are babies that often go unnoticed. Here are some tips to help you identify these differences.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), more commonly referred to autism, is a lifelong developmental disability that can cause significant differences in behaviors when it comes to communication and social interactions. While autism is defined by specific differences in social behaviors, it is a spectrum condition that can affect people differently, and with varying degrees of severity.

Signs and Symptoms

The age at which an individual is diagnosed with autism and it’s severity varies from person to person. While most people who are diagnosed with ASD are diagnosed after the age of 4, this developmental disorder can be accurately diagnosed as early as the age of 2. While signs and symptoms, as well as their severity, can differ from person to person, there are some common signs to look out for during developmental stages as well as at any age.

Infants and Toddlers

The following symptoms may indicate that your child is at risk for autism. If you notice any of the following signs, it is advised that you speak with your pediatrician or family care provider to schedule evaluations as soon as possible.

At Six Months

  • Few to no big smiles or warm, engaging expressions.

  • Limited to no eye contact.

At Nine Months

  • Limited to no exchanges of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.

At One Year

  • Limited to no babbling.

  • Limited to no gestures like pointing, reaching, or waving.

  • Limited or no response to their name.

At Two Years

  • Few or no words

At Any Age

  • Loss of previously acquired skills such as not using words they previously used

  • Have trouble adapting to changes in routine

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Desire to be alone

  • Unaware when people are talking to them

  • Interested in other people but unaware of how to interact with them

  • Trouble expressing needs and feelings in words

  • Intense reactions to colors, smells, tastes, textures, etc.

  • Difficulty understanding others’ emotions

  • Repetition in words and phrases

  • Delayed language development

  • Prefer to not be touched, hugged, cuddled, etc.

  • Not looking at objects being pointed to by others

It is important to note that not every person living with autism shows all of the aforementioned signs. Many people show one or a few, which makes professional evaluation crucial when it comes to diagnosis.

Causes and Risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more research needs to be done to determine all of the causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, there are several known factors that may make a child more prone to having a developmental disorder, including:

  • Children with siblings with ASD are at a higher risk.

  • Children born to older parents.

  • Taking the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide while pregnant.

  • Having chromosomal conditions like fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.


While there is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder or the associated symptoms, there are several methods that can be used to help to improve an autistic person to function better. Early intervention provides the best opportunity to support healthy development and introduce skills that will be beneficial to those living with autism throughout their lifetime.

Behavior and Communication Therapies

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Research Council, providing children with autism structure, direction, and organization can help to improve an array of skills. Some of the most commonly used behavior and communication approaches include:

  • Occupational Therapy focuses on teaching skills, like dressing and bathing, that will help a person live independently.

  • Sensory Integration Therapy helps those bothered by sensory overload to better deal with sensory information like sounds, smells, and lights.

  • Speech Therapy is aimed at helping people develop their communication skills including conveying thoughts and feelings and understanding others.

  • The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) uses images and pictures to teach communication skills.


While there is no medication that can alleviate all of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder, medications can be used to target specific behaviors. Minimizing detrimental behaviors and symptoms—for example, about 28% of children with ASD display behaviors that include the self-inflicted injury. Treating these behaviors can help those living with autism to focus their attention on other things, which also helps them to learn how to effectively communicate better.

Several antipsychotic drugs, such as risperidone and aripiprazole, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating the irritation associated with ASD. Other medications can be used to address the symptoms associated with autism, however, they have not been certified by the FDA for this purpose in particular—many of which are not approved for use by those under 18. Some of these medication types include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Tricyclics

  • Psychoactive or anti-psychotic medications

  • Stimulants

  • Anti-anxiety medications

  • Anticonvulsants

Pediatric Occupational Therapy in Ridgecrest, California

At Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, our resident pediatric occupational therapist works with children of all ages helping them to grow, learn, and be more independent at school, play, and in the community. To learn more about our pediatric occupational therapy services, visit our website or give us a call at (760) 446-3551 (Mon-Fri 8 AM-4:30 PM).