Signs of Autism in Babies: 7 Early Signs To Recognize

February 13, 2022

Signs of autism in babies may include: limited eye contact, absence of joint attention, repetitive movements, or lack of nonverbal communication. If your child is showing these signs, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.

Autism does not change a baby’s physical appearance but could affect how they interact with others and their environment. Every child diagnosed with autism displays different signs and holds a different skill set.  Therefore, autism is considered a “spectrum” of 3 levels, allowing a wide range of differences in symptoms and abilities.

Developmental milestones as early signs of autism

Smiling

  • A child's first smile after birth typically happens between six and eight weeks of age. Upon reaching four months, your baby should giggle and chuckle heartily. In addition, by six months, they should respond to your smile, laugh and make efforts to repeat your behavior, which are significant developmental milestones.

Talking

  • Speech and communication begin before most parents even become aware, and it often leaves them surprised at how fast their infant is developing. A baby may say "dada" or "mama" as early as six to twelve months of age. If a child does not say single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age two, parents should consider visiting their pediatrician for an inquiry.

Gesturing

  • As early as 6 months old, infants may wave and do a broad range of movements such as reaching for items they want, leading or pointing to others. In addition, an unwillingness to mimic gestures that you make may also be indicators of developmental delay. For instance, an infant or toddler who fails to point, mimic kisses, or look when you gesture.

Coordination, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills 

  • Every individual generally possesses two categories of motor capabilities: gross and fine motor skills. Fine motor skills usually relate to the hands and are composed of the pincer grasp, wrist movements, and grip strength, among others. These allow the child to grasp and hold toys in the initial months and the ability to grip a pencil and draw as they get older. 
  • Gross motor skills relate to large body movements such as, crawling, running, walking, and executing actions concerning spatial awareness, balance, and similar factors. An absence of developmental gross or fine motor skill markers point to developmental delays.

Crawling

  • Crawling is one of the most significant milestones in learning coordination and balance. While skipping this crucial milestone may not always be a sign of autism, an inability to walk or even crawl by 18 months could prove to be a cause for concern. 
  • Babies who do not crawl before they walk are not growing as quickly, and it is advisable to consult with a pediatrician if a baby isn't performing either between the ages of 6 months to 1 year.

Disinterest

  • A baby who exhibits a lack of interest in their toys or the world around them can be an indicator of autism. They may seem to remain in their own world and prefer being amused by their own thoughts rather than with their environment or interacting with others.
  • It can also be challenging to draw the attention of a baby, child, or toddler with autism as they appear disinterested when you are interacting with them.

Eye contact

  • Eye contact is an important developmental factor and an infant will look into their father or mother's eyes from the time they are born. Babies make eye contact to copy and mimic facial expressions, actions, and behaviors to learn and develop. 

Signs of autism by age

Children with autism can show a range of signs anywhere between their first few months to age 2 or 3. Note that a professional diagnosis is essential since not all children with autism show all or the same signs.

6 months

  • Limited to no eye contact or gesturing
  • Limited engagement and expressions such as smiling or laughing

9 months

  • Limited to no sharing of facial expressions, smiles, or sounds
  • Limited to no response to their name or gesturing

12 months

  • Limited to no response to name calling or gestures like waving, pointing
  • Little or no babbling

16 months

  • Very few or no words spoken

24 months

  • Very limited two-word phrases
  • Difficulty walking or crawling
  • Difficulty using household objects like spoons or forks

Other signs (age agnostic)

  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Delayed language development
  • Constant repetition of words or phrases
  • Loss of previously acquired speech or social skills
  • Difficulty understanding feelings of others
  • Resistance to small changes in routine or surrounding
  • Repetitive behaviors (spinning, rocking, flapping, etc.)
  • Unusual and strong reactions to specific smells, tastes, sounds, lights, textures, or colors
  • Very few interests
  • Strong preference for solitude
  • Difficulty making and maintaining social relationships
  • Food aversions

Conclusion

If you are concerned that your child might be showing early signs of autism, consult with your pediatrician on these issues as they can help you better understand signs and potential treatment options.

At Songbird, we believe that your child should come first. That’s why we always put together a personalized care plan that fits your child’s unique needs. Instead of months, Songbird can provide care in weeks. Ready to get started? Get in touch with us today.

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