As you well know, the causes of autism are hotly debated in both medical and parent circles these days. But one thing everyone agrees on: Early detection and intervention are crucial. Accordingly, it’s important to be on the lookout for red flags early on.
Here are 10 signs of autism to watch for in children 6 months to one year of age. Bear in mind that no one sign is definitive, and that children develop on highly individual timelines. But if you suspect that your child may have autism, bring him or her to a specialist for more information; don’t take a wait-and-see approach:
1. Smiles are rare or nonexistent.
Some babies are just more smiley than others, but most babies are smiling frequently from the time they’re about 6 months old.
2. Speech delays.
Babies with autism tend to babble less than other babies (or not at all). They also tend not to mimic adult speech and laughter, as other babies do.
3. Lack of response to name.
By one year old, most babies recognize the sound of their own name and respond to it.
4. Minimal or nonexistent eye contact.
Babies with autism tend not to make a lot of eye contact with the people around them.
5. Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
Most babies will reach out when they want to be picked up, or when they see that they’re about to be picked up.
6. Seems to be in his or her own world
Babies with autism tend to play independently and seek out less parental contact/approval than other babies.
7. Doesn’t like to be held and cuddled
Resisting hugs and cuddles can be a warning sign of autism.
8. Repetitive moment
Many babies with autism exhibit repetitive physical motions, including rocking, twirling, or flapping their hands. They also may stiffen or jerk their limbs.
9. Doesn’t ask for help or make other requests of caregivers
Most babies will indicate what they want through use of speech or gestures, such as pointing and reaching.
10. Developmental regression
While babies develop at different rates, regression (loss of a previously acquired speech or social skill) is considered a serious red flag for autism; this tends to happen between the ages of 12 and 24 months. If your baby stops communicating with words, or stops engaging in interactive behavior (such as playing peek-a-boo or waving), schedule a medical evaluation.