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Early Autism Detection

Toddler with ASD plays quietly

Many parents relish the toddler years, when their youngsters are developing, growing, and learning at an accelerated pace. Between the ages of 2 and 3, many important milestones of childhood development take place, and this is the age that many Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experts agree is when some signs of ASD begin to appear and a diagnosis can be accurately made. So, if you have a tot between 18 and 36 months of age, let’s take a look at some milestones to pay attention to if you suspect your child may be on the autism spectrum.

Signs of babies with ASD can be easy to spot, but accurate diagnosis usually does not take place until the age of 2 or 3. These signs can include:

  • Delayed smile or laugh

  • Resistance to being held or cuddled

  • Lack of interest in objects, usually noticed by a lack of pointing

  • Eye contact avoidance

  • Failure to respond to his name by 1st birthday

Common determining factors of an ASD diagnosis for children in their toddler and preschool years can include any of the above-mentioned signs, and may also include:

  • Lack of pretend play engagement by 18 months of age

  • Prefers solitary play to parallel or interactive play

  • Lack of understanding of the feelings of other people

  • Lack, delayed, or monotonous speech

  • Responding to questions with unrelated answers

  • Ignoring requests or questions (if unrelated to hearing implications)

  • Constant repetition of words or phrases

  • Frequent temper tantrums induced by minor changes to routine

  • Intentional and repeated harm to self, such as banging their head against a door

  • Obsessive interests

  • Spastic movements such as flapping hands, rocking, or spinning

  • Unusual reactions to sensory stimuli including sights, smells, and touch. This may be accompanied by unusual food preferences

None of the signs alone can indicate a diagnosis of ASD, but if you are noticing or worried about any behaviors displayed by your tot, talk to your pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that your pediatrician performs developmental screening tests with ASD screenings around the age of 18-24 months. After this initial step, you can receive direction to a developmental specialist, who can help with a diagnosis, and in the case that your child does fall on the autism spectrum, can provide referrals to early intervention programs and other types of support for your child and your family.

Early detection of ASD can be important to helping your child receive the right support. The good news is that no-one knows your child better than you! Knowing the early signs of ASD and being able to talk about these signals with your pediatrician will help your child receive a proper diagnosis and subsequently receive the right support for your child and your family.

Georgia Autism Center provides assessment, diagnosis, coordination of care, educational planning or assistance with the development of IEPs, and support for families of children with special needs. For more information visit

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