Family health

Autism: Early warning signs

It is important to know the warning signs of autism in young children since early invention is critical. Here is what to look out for.

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Parents should ask their child’s family doctor for referral to a developmental pediatrician for assessment if there are concerns with any of the following:

Communication red flags
• No babbling by 11 months of age
• No simple gestures by 12 months (e.g., waving bye-bye)
• No single words by 16 months
• No two-word phrases by 24 months (noun + verbe.g., “baby sleeping”)
• No response when name is called, causing concern about hearing
• Loss of any language or social skills at any age

Behavioural red flags
• Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hands
• Oversensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights
• Lack of interest in toys, or plays with them in an unusual way (e.g., lining up, spinning, opening/closing parts rather than using the toy as a whole)
• Compulsions or rituals (has to perform activities in a special way or certain sequence; is prone to tantrums if rituals are interrupted)
• Preoccupations with unusual interests, such as light switches, doors, fans or wheels
• Unusual fears

Social red flags
• Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people
• Does not play peek-a-boo
• Doesn’t point to show things he/she is interested in
• Rarely smiles socially
• More interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces
• Prefers to play alone
• Doesn’t make attempts to get parent’s attention; doesn’t follow/look when someone is pointing at something
• Seems to be “in his/her own world”
• Doesn’t respond to parent’s attempts to play, even if relaxed
• Avoids or ignores other children when they approach

Autism is treatable and early intervention is critical. Know the warning signs of autism in young children. Act early.

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