What are the early signs of autism in babies and young children?
Parents often worry that their child may be showing signs of autism in the early years. However, many of the things parents worry about can be completely normal at this stage of development, for example being very fussy about textures of food or certain clothing. The table below shows some of these common behaviours. An example is ‘not sharing’, which is a completely normal developmental stage and only starts to change from about 3+ years.
There is a big overlap in symptoms between autism and anxiety, and of course, anxiety is much more common. For example, anxious children will often enjoy repetitive play or behaviours as it can help them feel calmer and safer. They may also react badly to change or appear to become obsessed with wearing certain clothes or doing things in a certain order.
The websites below explain a little more about autistic spectrum disorders and what other symptoms to look out for in young children e.g. problems with eye contact from an early age or speech delay. If you are worried, you should always seek advice from your health visitor or your GP who can help decide whether a referral might be useful. It’s also worth considering whether your child can hear and see clearly as this could be contributing.
- What to look out for in preschool children Common early signs of autism
- Autism in children aged 1-5 years
- Autism screening tool (Modified checklist for autism in toddlers = M-CHAT): designed for children between 16 and 30 months of age. This is a simple set of twenty questions which won’t provide a diagnosis but may help you decide whether you need to speak to your GP. If your child does need a referral, they will go on to have a much more detailed assessment. The link will take you to an interactive version of the M-CHAT.
- What does an assessment involve? Information for parents and carers
- Information on Autism and Asperger’s syndrome for parents from the Royal College of Psychiatry
- Stories from the spectrum- a dad shares memories of his son’s early years and what he’s learnt