Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

May 21, 2024

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects communication, behavior, and social interaction. Early identification of signs and symptoms is crucial for timely intervention and support. Below, we outline the key indicators across different age groups to help parents and caregivers recognize potential signs of ASD.

Age 12 to 18 months

During this crucial developmental period, certain behaviors may signal the presence of autism:

  1. Limited or no eye contact: Children may avoid making eye contact with others, which is crucial for social interaction.
  2. Rare or no response to name being called: Lack of response to their name may indicate difficulty with social communication.
  3. Limited or no nonverbal communication: This includes gestures, pointing, and facial expressions, which are essential for communication and social interaction.
  4. Little or no imitation skills: Difficulty imitating actions or sounds demonstrated by others.
  5. Unusual ways of moving fingers, hands, or body: Repetitive movements or unusual motor behaviors may be observed.
  6. More interest in objects than in people: Children may show excessive fascination with objects rather than engaging with people.
  7. Unusual reactions to sensory stimuli: Overreacting or underreacting to sounds, sights, smells, or textures.
  8. Lack of babbling and single words: Delayed or absent speech development, including babbling and forming basic words.
  9. Toe walking: Walking on tiptoes instead of with a flat foot (Toe walking isn’t exclusive to ASD; it can occur in various developmental conditions or as part of typical development).
  10. Creating unusual patterns with objects: Preoccupation with arranging objects in a specific way.
  11. Lack of pretend play: Difficulty engaging in imaginative play scenarios.

Age 18 to 24 months

As children grow older, additional signs may become apparent:

  1. Regression of previously acquired developmental milestones: Loss of skills that were previously acquired, such as language or social skills.
  2. Lack of pointing skills: Difficulty pointing to objects or sharing interest with others.
  3. Issues with emotional responsiveness: Limited emotional expression or difficulty understanding and responding to others’ emotions.
  4. Absence of parallel play: Lack of engagement in playing alongside peers.
  5. Difficulty following simple commands: Challenges in understanding and carrying out basic instructions.
  6. Sensory sensitivities: Heightened sensitivity or aversion to sensory stimuli like loud noises or certain textures.
  7. Limited engagement: Reduced interest in social interaction or play activities.
  8. Hyperlexic tendencies: Uncommon advanced reading abilities for their age group (While early signs may emerge within this timeframe, they typically become more pronounced and noticeable later in childhood).
  9. Development of specific isolated skills: Showing exceptional ability in certain areas while struggling in others (splinter skills).
  10. Emergence of comorbid symptoms: Additional conditions such as ADHD or anxiety may become noticeable. These conditions alongside Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) highlight the intricate nature of neurodevelopmental disorders. They often co-occur due to shared underlying factors, including genetic predispositions and environmental influences, impacting brain development in overlapping ways. Understanding these complex interactions is crucial for parents & therapists to provide comprehensive care tailored to individual needs.

Age 2 to 3 years

By the age of 2 to 3 years, certain patterns of behavior may persist or become more pronounced:

  1. Limited verbal repertoire: Limited vocabulary and difficulty expressing needs or desires.
  2. Use of Gestalt Language Processing: Difficulty understanding and using language in a meaningful way (perceiving and understanding language in terms of its overall structure, patterns and meanings, rather than as individual words or sounds).
  3. Lack of social interaction: Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships with peers.
  4. Persistence of comorbid symptoms: Coexisting conditions like ADHD or anxiety may continue to present challenges.
  5. Absence of pragmatic language skills: Difficulty using language in social contexts or understanding social cues.
  6. Inability to narrate past events: Difficulty recalling and recounting past experiences.
  7. Lack of cooperative play: Difficulty playing and interacting with peers in a cooperative manner.
  8. Frequent meltdowns: Difficulty regulating emotions, leading to frequent outbursts or meltdowns.
  9. Irregular sleeping and eating habits: Disrupted sleep patterns and selective eating habits may be observed.


Early recognition of signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder is crucial for early intervention and support. Parents and caregivers should consult healthcare professionals if they notice any concerning behaviors in their children. Understanding the developmental milestones and typical behaviors associated with each age group can aid in the timely identification and management of ASD. Do you think your child is displaying some of these signs or symptoms of ASD? Get a professional assessment done at Omega Center For Special Needs Education today by our team of therapists. 

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