With higher rates of autism than ever reported in the past, parents have reason to be concerned and on the lookout for early signs. Since every child is different, it’s best to be aware of autism signs and address concerns as they come up. The simple answer as to when to begin watching for symptoms is, “immediately,” but that’s not a helpful answer. It’s also not helpful to expect every child to perform the same functions at the same age. More useful is to understand children develop differently, and know what to look for.
A few early signs of autism present before the child has developed much sense of communication. Simply not returning eye contact or smiles can indicate a potential problem, but doesn’t necessarily mean autism is present. Not asking for or returning attention in the form of waving or cuddling can be further signs. It is noticeable how each of these signs show the child has an understanding of other people’s’ presence.
Typical Detection Age Ranges
The general wisdom says autism is very difficult to diagnose before 24 months of age. This is because of the different development of children and although certain skills and traits are typical during the first two years, not all children are the same. In some cases, signs may begin to show as early as six months. Generally, around 12-18 months is when symptoms of autism should be considered as reasonable cause for concern and the 24 month mark may be when a formal diagnosis occurs.
Understanding Developmental Differences in Children
Again, it simply can’t be emphasized enough how differently children can develop. It’s never a good idea to compare a child to others of the same age. A child who is seemingly behind at twelve months may wind up ahead of the learning curve at 24, and a child who is ahead at 6 months may soon fall behind. These are not signs of autism or IQ levels, but more likely show different social skills and personalities. More important is for the child to show a steady progression from infant to toddler to small child at their own rate.