Autism Symptoms

A checklist for identifying early signs of Autism and Autism Symptoms.

Autism SymptomsThe autism symptoms checklist is important because early recognition and diagnosis of autism combined with early intervention and effective autism treatment are the greatest contributors to positive outcomes.

If your child or a loved one displays some of these autism symptoms, we encourage you to consult with a health professional who is experienced in recognizing and diagnosing autism.

Keep in mind the fact that the sooner treatment is begun, the better. Also, remember that the vast majority of children who display autistic behavior do not simply “grow out of it.”

Unmet milestones to watch for include:

  • No smiling or joyful expressions by 6 months.
  • No sharing of sounds or smiles by 9 months.
  • No babbling or using sounds by 12 months.
  • No pointing, showing, or waving by 12 months.
  • The child does not learn to talk by 16 months.
  • Then child learns to talk, then quits.
  • No 2-word phrases by 2 years.

Additional behaviors to watch for:

  • Monotone speech or unusual speech patterns.
  • Failure to respond, even when his or her name is called.
  • Failure to make eye contact with others.
  • Repetitive movements: spinning, rocking, or hand flapping.
  • Excessive adherence to certain routines or rituals.
  • Absence of imaginative or pretend play.
  • Absence of pointing, gesturing or waving goodbye.
  • Taking someone by the hand to show what he or she wants.
  • Consistent irritation, agitation or general discomfort.
  • Not reacting to or understanding the expressions of others.
  • Inability to understand what behaviors are appropriate.
  • Self-abusive behavior such as biting or head banging.
  • Sensitivity to sounds and touch, yet less sensitive to pain.
  • Talking about narrow topics without regard to the listener’s interest.
  • Referring to themselves by their own name rather than “I” or “me.”

Autism signs in children
Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development:
social interaction, language and behavior.

Because the symptoms of autism vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. In most cases, though, severe autism is marked by a complete inability to communicate or interact with other people.

Many children show signs of autism in early infancy (infantile autism). Others may develop normally for the first few months or years of life but then suddenly become withdrawn, aggressive, or lose language skills they had already acquired (regressive autism). Though each child with autism has a unique pattern of behavior, the following characteristics are common signs of the disorder:

Social skills

  • Fails to respond to his or her name.
  • Has poor eye contact.
  • Appears not to hear you at times.
  • Resists cuddling and holding.
  • Appears unaware of others’ feelings.
  • Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her “own world.”
  • Rarely plays with toys in an appropriate manner, e.g., uses a truck more like a block.


  • Starts talking later than other children.
  • Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences.
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech.
  • Does not make eye contact when making requests.
  • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going.
  • May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them.


  • Performs repetitive movements like rocking, spinning or hand-flapping.
  • Develops certain routines or rituals.
  • Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routine.
  • Moves about constantly or paces back and forth.
  • May be fascinated by parts of an object such as wheels, hinges or knobs.
  • Unusual sensitivity to light, sound and touch, yet oblivious to pain.
  • Difficulties with basic skills such as dressing, eating, brushing teeth, and going to the bathroom
  • Throws tantrums or cries for extended periods, often due to a lack of understanding or control.