Early symptoms of autism spectrum disorder

The early symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can occur in early infancy, but they can also appear months or years after a child has been developing normally – only to become withdrawn, aggressive, and lose previously acquired skills. The symptoms can be divided in two categories; social communication/interaction and behavioral patterns.

Autism symptoms in children and adults include:

Social communication/interaction

·         Failing to respond to name (sometimes appearing as if not having heard).

·         Resisting cuddling and holding.

·         Preferring to play alone.

·         Retreating into own world.

·         Poor eye contact.

·         Lack of facial expression.

·         Not speaking or delayed speech.

·         Losing previous ability to say words or sentences.

·         Inability to start a conversation or keep one going.

·         Starting a conversation only to make requests or label items.

·         Speaking with an abnormal tone or rhythm; a singsong voice or robotic speech.

·         Repeating words or phrases verbatim, without understanding how to use them.

·         Repeating words or phrases in lieu of normal language.

·         Trouble expressing needs with typical words or motions.

·         Appearing not to understand simple questions or directions.

·         Appearing unaware when people talk, but responding to other sounds.

·         Not express emotions or feelings.

·         Appearing unaware of other people’s feelings.

·         Trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all.

·         Not pointing at or bringing objects to share interest.

·         Not looking at objects when another person points at them.

·          Interest in people without knowing how to talk, play, or relate to them.

·         Inappropriately approaching a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive.

Behavioral patterns

·         Repetitive movements like rocking, spinning or hand-flapping.

·         Performing activities that could cause harm, like head-banging.

·         Developing specific routines or rituals and becoming disturbed at the slightest change.

·         Moving constantly.

·         Uncooperativeness or resistance to change.

·         Problems with coordination.

·         Odd movement patterns, e.g., clumsiness or walking on toes.

·         Odd, stiff or exaggerated body language.

Fascination with the details of an object, without understanding the how it works.

·         Unusual sensitiveness to light, sound and touch combined with oblivion to pain.

·         Not engaging in imitative or make-believe play.

·         Fixation on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus.

·         Odd food preferences.

·         Unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound.


There is no single cause of autism spectrum disorder, and not all causes are fully known, either – though anyone with a semblance of sense agrees 100% that vaccines are in no way, shape or form related to autism. Overall, genetic problems and environmental factors are thought to play a prominent role in the onset of ASD. Additionally, boys are about 5 times more likely to develop ASD than girls, especially if they have a sibling who has ASD, or if they have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, like fragile X syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis, for instance. Some evidence has been found indicating that the crucial period for developing autism spectrum disorder takes place before, during, and right after birth. Furthermore, older parents are at an increased risk of having a child with ASD.

In addition to the early symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, there is a two-pronged approach to diagnosing ASD.

ASD diagnosis

Developmental screening

A short test to determine whether or not children are learning basic skills according to their age. The doctor may ask parents some questions or talk and play with the child to assess how he/she learns, speaks, behaves, and moves. All children should be screened for during regular well-child doctor visits at:

·         9 months.

·         18 months.

·         24 or 30 months.

·         Further screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for developmental problems because of preterm birth, low birth weight or other reasons.

All children should be screened specifically for ASD during regular well-child doctor visits at:

·         18 months.

·         24 months.

·         Further screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or if behaviors sometimes linked to ASD are present.

Comprehensive diagnostic evaluation

A thorough review that may include looking at the child’s behavior and development and interviewing the parents, as well as a hearing and vision screening, genetic testing, neurological testing, and other medical testing. In some instances, the primary care provider might see fit to refer the child to one or more of the following specialist for additional assessment and diagnosis:

·         Developmental pediatricians.

·         Child neurologists.

·         Child psychologists or psychiatrists.


In somewhat of a rarity, there are no medications for ASD or its main symptoms – though antidepressants antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed to help with secondary symptoms. Therefore, treatment is mostly based on behavior and communication therapies.

Behavior and communication therapies for autism spectrum disorder

Applied behavior analysis

·         Discrete Trial Training (DTT).

·         Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI).

·         Pivotal Response Training (PRT).

·         Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI).

·         Sensory integration therapy.

Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach

·         Focuses on emotional and relational development.

·         It also centers on how the child deals with sights, sounds, and smells.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children

·         Uses visual cues to teach skills. For instance, picture cards can help teach a child how to get dressed by breaking information down into small steps.

Occupational therapy

·         Teaches skills to help the person lead as independent a life as possible.

·         Such skills might include daily living activities like dressing, eating, and bathing, as well as relating to people.

Speech therapy

·         Helps improve a person’s communication skills.

·         Some people are able to learn verbal communication skills.

·         Others use gestures or picture boards as a more realistic alternative.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

·         Uses picture symbols to teach communication skills.

·         The person learns to use picture symbols as a means of asking and answering questions and having a conversation.


There are also, dietary approaches and alternative treatments (chelation, biological, or body-based systems). However, these range for scientifically unproven to downright controversial. Parents who suspect their child has ASD should talk to a doctor as soon as possible. If a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is established, a medical care team might have to be assembled and a suitable treatment approached settled on. More importantly, the parents must not give up on their child; ASD cannot be prevented but if detected and treated early, there is a pretty good chance that the child still develop their cognitive and communication skills, and as they say, better late than never.

Related: 10 vaccination misconceptions (that don’t hold water)