How Early Can Autism Be Diagnosed? Symptoms To Monitor by Age

Reviewed by:

March 7, 2022

Signs of autism can start appearing anywhere between 1 to 9 months.

Children with autism may find it challenging to play outdoor games, learn specific skills, and communicate with friends and family. According to recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 44 children suffers from autism disorder.

How to spot the signs of autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder where some children develop their behaviors differently compared to others. As a parent, you must keep track of your child’s overall personality and behavioral development. Parents can also take an MCHAT screening test to see if their child should be diagnosed with autism.

Autism has different levels, from mild to severe, with a large range of symptoms.

  • Supervise your child’s development

When trying to spot signs of autism, you should observe your child’s development carefully. Check if your child is developing social, interactive, and emotional skills at an appropriate rate. Some children may be naturally slow in developing certain skills, so the slow development of social and communication skills may not directly point to autism.

  • Trust your instincts

If you feel that your child is facing challenges in developmental milestones, be persistent. Only parents know their child better than anyone.

  • Don’t waste your time

If your instincts are telling you something, do not wait. Make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or any other therapist. Early intervention with young children with autism is important to future success.

  • Consult a doctor

After consulting the pediatrician, if your child is diagnosed with autism, consult a therapist based on the severity of your child’s condition.

Signs of autism in babies

Even though recognizing autism in children less than 2 years old is challenging, it is important to diagnose your child at an early age. The early signs of autism in babies based on their age are given below:

6 Months old 

  •  Limited smiles or very few big smiles
  •  Few joyful or engaging facial expressions
  •  Limited eye contact with parents
  •  Limited motor skills
  •  Ignoring unfamiliar people

9 Months old

  • Limited imitate sounds
  • Limited smiles or other facial expressions
  • Not following any objects
  • Not laughing or smiling
  • Not showing any affection

12 Months old

  • No babbling
  • Few back and forth gestures
  • Not responding to any activities
  • Not responding to own name
  • Not pointing or waving
  • Not showing any interest in playing different indoor and outdoor games
  • Inability to crawl or stand 

16 Months old

  • Difficulty in speaking; may not speak at all
  • No active movements such as walking or crawling, or excessive, repetitive movements
  • Limited interest in playing different games

24 Months old

  • Limited movements
  • Does not speak any meaningful words or phrases.

Signs of autism in children above 2 years

As your child with autism grows older, the signs become more easily traceable. Here are a few signs that will help identify the behavior of your child.

Social interactions

  • Limited interest in other people
  • Remains unaware of what is going on around them
  • Finds it difficult to interact with others
  • Faces problems in playing or making friends
  • Does not like to be touched or cuddled
  • Does not engage in group games or activities
  • Does not use any toys in creative ways
  • Cannot understand feelings
  • Does not pay attention when others try talking to them

Difficulties in speech and language

  • Does not speak properly
  • Speaks with an odd rhythm or pitch
  • Keeps repeating the same words again and again
  • Does not respond to a question, instead repeats the question
  • Makes grammatical errors while speaking
  • Faces difficulty in communicating their needs or desires
  • Cannot understand simple statements or questions

Difficulty in non-verbal communication

  • Does not make or avoids any eye contact
  • Speaks with facial expressions that do not match their speech
  • Does not react to other people’s gestures
  • Does not make any gestures such as pointing towards anyone
  • Reacts unusually to different smells and sounds
  • Makes weird postures

Inflexible signs

  • Acts rigid all the time
  • Faces challenges in adapting to changes
  • Has unusual attachments with strange objects such as toys
  • Does not show any interest in certain topics from the beginning
  • Keeps spending very long hours watching the same object
  • Keeps repeating the same actions again and again

How can early autism diagnosis help your child?

The research of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that early diagnosis of autism correlates with better outcomes and positive long-term effects. It helps your child make better progress in their behaviors and also decreases the need for autism diagnosis in the future.

Furthermore, if autism is recognized at an early age, it can be diagnosed even before they are 2 years old. During this period, the child’s brain still undergoes formation and development which means it is more flexible than when a child is older.

Diagnosis timespan

If your child shows severe symptoms of autism, you should consider contacting a therapist immediately. Diagnosis for children can start as early as 6 months. However, if your child has autism with mild symptoms, it may be difficult to diagnose until they are older or even adults. The timespan of the diagnosis depends on your child’s condition and requirements. The earlier the child with autism is diagnosed, the more effective therapy will be. 

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is considered the ideal therapy to diagnose children with autism. It may last from 6 months to many years, depending on your child’s challenges.


For better outcomes, it is best to diagnose autism early. Here at Songbird, our best-in-class therapists provide early autism diagnosis and therapy 

Songbird therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them.