What are the Signs of Autism in Toddlers?

Autism is a developmental disorder that can be detected early in a toddler by getting an evaluation from a professional or a multidisciplinary team, but thsigns 
and symptoms of ASD are usually first noticed by parents themselves.

As a parent of a toddler on the spectrum I spent a lot of time looking for information on the different signs associated with autism in toddlers and I found a lot of it wasn't that relevant to my son, it can be daunting trying to find exactly what you need to know which is why I decided to write this article with what other parents will hopefully find useful in the early stages of their research.

Below we will look at what some of the most common red flags or signs of autism that you may notice in your toddler. It is important to realize that many children will show one or more of these signs, it is only when several are present together that there may be cause for concern.


Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Get to know your ASD's

All autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) used to come under the heading of Pervasive AutismDevelopmental Disorders or PDD's and there were five different types:

  1. Autism
  2. Asperger's Syndrome
  3. Pdd-nos (pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified)
  4. Rett's Disease
  5. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

The latest DSM 5 Diagnostic Criteria [1] for 2014 now simply considers all the above disorders under one heading, ASD's with a grading or level of 1,2 or 3.

Previously one child may have been given a diagnosis of Autism while another child received a diagnosis of Aspergers, now both children would be diagnosed simply as ASD with a grade number.

If you are a parent and are looking for information it is worthwhile knowing your ASD's, but it can be confusing, should you look up Autism signs, Pdd-nos or ASD grade 1? To make it even more confusing you have the terms of mild and severe as well as low and high functioning.

The latest information will be those that discuss ASD's with a grade, this is how the different levels work:

  1. Requires Support (previously mild autism or high functioning)
  2. Requires Substantial Support (moderate)
  3. Requires Very Substantial Support (severs)

However, all ASD's have similar red flags that would indicate a need for evaluation in a toddler, it is considered a spectrum because the signs and symptoms can vary greatly from child to child.

Recommended Reading

Autism - A Practical Guide for Parents
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Nov 28, 2015)
If you are looking for more information, this guide for parents is available on Kindle.

Signs and Symptoms of ASD's in Young Children and Toddlers

Often referred to as red flags for autism, this list covers many of the common signs and symptoms that present in a child on the spectrum. For a toddler to be diagnosed with ASD they would have to have difficulties in social and communication skills and behavior which show up early in the child's development.

ASD Red Flags

  • Delay in verbal communication such as loss of words or lack of words compared to typically developing toddlers.
  • Lack of social interaction such as eye contact.Example of Appropriate Play
  • Not responding to their name when called
  • No pointing or showing to parents and others
  • No pretend play (appropriate play with toys)
  • Echolalia
  • Obsessive interest in objects or specific toy
  • Stimming (flapping hands, spinning etc.)
  • Sensitivity to everyday sounds/smells/sights
  • Speech is flat or sing-song speech
  • Unusual behavior such as lining toys, spinning car wheels
  • Repetitive actions
  • Difficulty with changes or likes routine.
  • Seems to be in their own world

The list above is far from comprehensive and if you are concerned about your toddlers development in any way you should consult a professional.

ASDs are sometimes difficult to diagnose in a young child and the signs can vary hugely from one child to another. Some children with ASD have good eye contact, but are non verbal and seem to be in their own world while other children make very poor eye contact, but are very aware of their surroundings.



Informative Video on Signs of Autism in Toddlers

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Nov 28, 2015)
A great kindle book for parents with children who have recently been diagnosed or are in the process of finding out.

Bringing the Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders Into Focus