Early Signs of Autism


An autism diagnosis usually begins with the parent noticing that something isn’t quite right with their child’s development. The child may miss or show delays in early developmental milestones, such as:

  • Failure to make eye contact

  • Doesn’t smile when others smile

  • Doesn’t respond to name

  • No spoken words by 16 months

  • Doesn’t play with others

  • Doesn’t watch people or objects when they move

  • Doesn’t show affection or motivation to physically interact with others

  • Doesn’t look when others point at something

Next Steps

Schedule a visit to your pediatrician or family doctor immediately if you suspect something isn’t right. Otherwise, insist that developmental screenings be done during regular well-child doctor visits at:

  • 9 months

  • 18 months

  • 24 or 30 months

  • Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birth weight, or other reasons.

Most children are also screened specifically for ASD during regular well-child doctor visits at:

  • 18 months

  • 24 months

  • Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD (e.g., having a sister, brother, or other family member with an ASD) or if behaviors sometimes associated with ASD are present

It is important for doctors and pediatricians to screen all children for developmental delays, but especially to monitor those who are at a higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birth weight, or having a brother or sister with an ASD.

If the doctor sees any signs of a problem, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation should be recommended.

Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation

The second step of diagnosis is a comprehensive evaluation. Please visit our Diagnostic Testing page for more information on diagnostic evaluations.