Signs of Autism in Children

Sean Paul, MD, FABPN - 04/18/19

Parents often come in asking if their child might have autism (autism spectrum disorder). Here, we will discuss some early signs and symptoms that might indicate that a child needs to be evaluated for autism.

Signs you might see in the first two years of life:

  1. Social issues
  2. Language/Speech issues (no babbling by 9 months, no pointing by 12 months, not turning to their name by 12 months, so single word by 16 months, not playing pretend by 18 months)
  3. Frequent tantrums
  4. Resistant to changes
  5. Loss or decrease in language or social skills
  6. Not imitating actions like clapping

Signs you might see after the first two years of life:

  1. Lack of empathy
  2. Lack of interest in others
  3. Difficulty identifying facial expressions
  4. Lack of or decreased eye contact
  5. Repetitive words or actions/behaviors
  6. Difficulty understanding humor, sarcasm, etc.
  7. Difficulty with friendships
  8. Sensory sensitivity (to tastes, textures, sounds, sights)
  9. Sleep issues
  10. Special skills (savant skills at math, art, music, etc.)

If the parents come in with concerns like these, or if you as the nurse feel there is a concern for autism in a child, they will need to be referred to a child psychiatrist, child neurologist, or developmental pediatrician for an evaluation.

Learn More

You can learn more about the diagnostic criteria for ASD along with the signs, symptoms, and treatments with our Autism Spectrum Disorder course worth 2 contact hours.