Spot It Early

It is estimated that 1 in 100 children now have autism, a condition which, without the right treatment and support, can be devastating to a child and his or her family. To help give children with the condition the best chance of a normal life, parents must recognise and look out for the signs. To give you a guide, here are the ten most common signs of the condition in babies and infants.


No response to loud noises

From a few weeks old, most babies who hear a loud bang will respond by jumping, crying or blinking suddenly. Often babies who are autistic don’t respond at all to these noises and can appear to be slightly disengaged from any sort of noise happening around them.

Poor eye contact

This is one of the most obvious signs in a baby or child that you may need to check out with your doctor. Children who don’t follow objects with their eyes or cannot hold their parent's gaze may be suffering from the condition, as most babies will show some kind of interaction from a very young age.

Doesn't smile back

A baby will normally smile and engage with their parents from only a few weeks old. However, autistic children will rarely smile back and may gaze out into the distance, as if completely unaware of the presence of someone else.

Resists cuddles and physical contact

When they get a bit older autistic infants and children may not like to be touched, held or cuddled, preferring to sit on their own away from other adults or children.

No response to name

Babies usually start responding to their name at about five months old and will continue to grow more aware of it from then on. If your child doesn’t respond when you call her, either by turning her head or, if older, coming to you, she may have the condition. This is another symptom deaf children show,so this behaviour may point towards another condition as well.

Slow at talking

Autistic children normally start to talk far later than their peers and when they do, their vocabulary may be much more limited than you would expect. Children are expected to have started talking by the age of two and to make sounds and babble long before that. Sometimes an autistic child won’t babble at all or, if he does, his sounds and tone will be completely different from those of a child without autism.

Plays with toys in an unusual way

Children with autism can sometimes handle toys very differently to other children and may try and do something unusual with them. They may not play with them as intended and may become focused on one aspect, such as the wheels of a toy car.

Develops special routines

Autistic children may develop routines that they will repeat every day at the same time and in the same way. If these routines change or alter in any way, they may get very upset and worried. This dislike of change is common in many autistic adults and can stay with the sufferer for life.

Uninterested in other people

If your child is quiet, withdrawn and dislikes getting involved with other children, this may be a sign. Autistic children are happiest playing on their own and don’t like interacting with other people. They can sometimes appear as though they are in a world of their own but, at the same time, quite content with this.

Sensitive to light

Many autistic children are very sensitive to light and will hate any sudden light such as the bedroom curtains opening in the morning. This can be a symptom of many conditions, however, so it's best to get it checked out as soon as possible.

More on autism

Aspergirls: Women and girls living with Asperger's Syndrome
Even slightly early arrivals up special education risks
High-needs babies: How-to survive if your baby has a high-needs personality

Tags: autism child development

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