What is autism and what are the early signs?

The signs of autism can be detected by 18 to 24 months. And yet most children with autism are not diagnosed until at least 5 years of age and miss the opportunity for early intervention.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction, accompanied by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

The signs of ASD are usually evident in early childhood. Though it is still considered a lifelong diagnosis, with appropriate early intervention, individuals with ASD can lead productive, inclusive, and fulfilling lives. Many children with ASD do well in school, participate in activities they enjoy, go on to college, and are employed in adulthood. For most parents and professionals, ASD can be a very puzzling and complex disorder. Though a great deal of its mystery has yet to be uncovered, we know much more about it than we did 10 years ago. Just as our understanding has evolved over the years, so has the way we define, diagnose, and treat ASD.

What are early red flags of ASD in toddlers?

The diagnostic features of ASD can be easy to miss in young children. Looking for possible red flags or early signs may help to find children at risk for ASD, and in need of a diagnostic evaluation. If your child shows some of the following red flags, talk to your child’s doctor. If you or your child’s doctor has concerns about possible ASD, ask for a referral to a developmental specialist or you can contact your local early intervention program.

Father with young son

Download. Print. Share.

Share the early signs of autism.
Select the language to download or print:

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?¿Qué es el trastorno del espectro autista?Early Red Flags of Autism (poster)
Adobe Reader is required. Free download available.

How can you help make a difference? Learn More