Signs & Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

January 31, 2020 - Dr. Kristen Hurley, PsyD, HSPP, Clinical Psychologist

Signs & Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Dr. Kristen Hurley, PsyD, HSPP, Clinical Psychologist

Child development can feel complicated and confusing, and it can be hard to know what behaviors are expected. You want to make sure that you don’t ignore something important, but you also don’t want to make too big of a deal over something that your child is just doing a bit differently.

With developmental milestones, typical development actually encompasses a range of behaviors and timelines. Everyone learns things slightly differently, but if your child is doing something that is notably different from their peers or is outside of the range of what is typical, it’s worth looking into further.

My number one piece of advice – if something just doesn’t feel right or you are noticing your child fall behind many peers in a certain area, bring it up to your child’s pediatrician or family doctor. If it is nothing, bringing it up to experts will not lead to inaccurate diagnoses/services. And if your child does seem to be behind, we know that early intervention is the best possible way to help your child make progress and either catch up to peers or need less intervention down the road.

Below are some general behaviors that might raise flags for autism spectrum disorder. However, note that there are many behaviors that overlap with other conditions, and all children may occasionally show some of these behaviors. Only a trained provider, such as a psychologist or medical doctor, is qualified to interpret whether these behaviors warrant a diagnosis of autism or any other delays.

Noteworthy Behaviors

  • Not responding to their name when called
  • Not making eye contact with others
  • Delays in speaking or gesturing to try to communicate with others
  • Lack of interest or understanding in playing back and forth with others
  • Lack of play skills (not using toys how they were intended, not pretending)
  • Intense interest in specific objects with a lack of interest in other things
  • Repetitive body movements (e.g., hand flapping, finger twisting, tiptoe walking, waving objects in front of face)
  • Significant difficulty adjusting to changes in routine, transitioning between activities, or being in new situations
  • Sensory sensitivities/differences regarding sound, light, pain, textures of food or clothing

For more information about expected timelines for meeting developmental milestones, as well as ideas for how to help your child develop new skills, the following are reliable sources:

Resources About Developmental Milestones

  • Centers for Disease Control – Find information regarding specific developmental milestones by age, as well as contact information for early intervention services.
  • Zero To Three – This website provides information regarding expectations for typical child development, as well as ways that you can help foster your child’s skills
  • Healthy Children (by American Academy of Pediatrics) – This website has information about milestones by age, as well as suggestions for many daily activities (e.g., nutrition, sleep) for pregnancy through teen years

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January 31, 2020, Dr. Kristen Hurley, PsyD, HSPP, Clinical Psychologist

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