This post provides information about what Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may look like in some children and when parents might want to seek more advice in supporting their children. Any time a child receives a diagnosis it changes things. But caregivers need to remember that a child with a diagnosis is first and foremost a child. Learning that your child has ASD only helps those around them to understand that their brain works a little differently and know how to help them better. With this knowledge we can support kiddos to achieve their greatest potential. The information below includes possible signs of ASD in children under the age of two. If you have noticed unusual behaviors in your child or are just curious as to what early signs of Autism may look like this post will hopefully help you gain some understanding and clarity.

First, we should keep in mind that Autism is actually called Autism Spectrum Disorder. Spectrum means a classification on a scale between two extreme or opposite points. An example of something else on a spectrum is the color blue. If I ask you to imagine the color blue, you may think of royal blue, navy blue, pale blue, or even turquoise. These are all on the spectrum of colors that we would label “blue.” Just like “blue” can actually label a wide variety of different shades, the diagnosis of ASD encompasses a range of different symptoms, behaviors, and presentations. Autism doesn’t fit into just one set of signs and characteristics.

ASD presents differently in girls than it does in boys and can be individual to each person. This is part of what makes it difficult to diagnose and often takes physicians longer than parents and caregivers might like. Additionally, some of the characteristics that children with ASD display may be outgrown and so we would not want to make a diagnosis without taking all of this into account. It is important to recognize the early signs because an early diagnosis can result in greater resources and earlier services which can help kiddos and families implement successful strategies for growth and development.

Below we list some possible signs that children display that could be an early indicator of ASD. If your child displays 2 or more of these signs, we recommend having your child evaluated further by their pediatrician. Keep in mind that if your child displays some of these signs it could indicate ASD, could indicate something else, or it might just be a quirk your child has that they may grow out of. The important thing is to seek further evaluation if you are questioning some of the behaviors your child displays. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or are looking for additional resources.

By 12 months of age, if your child…

  • Is not responding to their own name
  • Avoids looking at your when you are talking to or interacting with them
  • Is not smiling back when someone smiles at them, or does not use a range of facial expressions
  • Babbles with monotone sounds and is not yet trying to communicate with you using their voice.

By 15 months of age, if your child…

  • Is not interested in 1:1 interactive play (i.e like playing peek-a-boo or a back-and-forth game with another person)
  • Is unusually attached to a particular object (a stuffie or a blanket or a particular toy), taking it with them everywhere and becoming extremely upset when separated from the object.
  • Uses repetitive movements continuously throughout the day, i.e. wiggling fingers in front of their eyes, rocking back and forth, flapping their hands, bouncing up and down, or spinning/rolling constantly.
  • Is not pointing at things they want and/or is not using gestures to express what they want/need.
  • Is constantly seeking movement and doesn’t ever seem to sit still or settle down.
  • Is easily frighted by everyday noises (like flushing a toilet) and/or does not respond to loud sounds or things that should be startling.

By 2 years of age, if your child….

  • Is not interested in playing with others or mimicking others’ play
  • Is not showing signs of concern for others or doesn’t seem to understand pain and anger in others.
  • Is not seeming to follow 1 to 2 step directions or able to pay attention when being spoken to.

As mentioned above, girls and boys with ASD can behave differently. Boys with ASD tend to struggle with making eye contact and responding to gestures and non-verbal communication. Girls do better with this and so it might not be as good of an indicator for them. Both boys and girls struggle to control their emotions but each in different ways. Boys tend to be more unsettled and aggressive, whereas girls tend to be more withdrawn when upset. Repetitive behaviors or play styles along with difficulty with transitions or schedule disruptions is common to both boys and girls who have Autism.

It is important to remember that Autism is only one aspect of your child. Knowing they are Autistic helps us guide our treatment styles and understand their learning styles better. It encourages the community at large to take extra special care to help keep your kiddo safe. And it hopefully links you with a community of people and resources that can help you best learn how to care for your child and help them to grow. Listed below are some of our most recommended resources. If you see any of the above signs behaviors or have other concerns about how your child is developing, we encourage you to bring it up with your child’s pediatrician to discuss further.

If you have questions about whether your child is meeting their milestones or if they need additional support to grow and develop, please reach out for an evaluation. Our therapists at Kid Physical have over 34 combined years of experience offering specialized, holistic healthcare for children of all ages. Our top priority is providing support for both caregivers and children so that they can reach their highest potential.


Carly’s Voice Book

A Guide for Families New to Autism

Autism Resource Center from American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Media Library: Center for Autism and Related Disorders

Social & Support Groups: Autism Society of Colorado

Autism Therapist & Advocate: Kaelynn Partlow