Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children

As a parent, watching your child grow can be such a rewarding and exciting time. However, if your child fails to reach a milestone, this can be cause for concern. While everyone develops at their own pace, it is important you don’t overlook signs that could indicate neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder (often referred to as autism or ASD) is a complex developmental disability, caused by variances in the brain. The signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can manifest differently, however, some of the consistent signs include limited eye-contact, delayed language development, difficulties in social situations, and repetitive behaviours.

As its name suggests, autism is a spectrum. There is wide variation in how these symptoms appear and the experience of those who are on the spectrum.

How common is Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children?

According to the most recent insights from Autism Spectrum Australia, around 1 in 70 people in Australia are on the autism spectrum. These numbers have been increasing over the years, and are a reflection of how increased dialogue and awareness continue to drive diagnosis.

Catching onto the disorder early in a child’s life gives parents time to intervene and help them develop to their full potential. At a younger age, the brain is far more malleable and can respond to the treatments more effectively. The ultimate goal is to make symptoms more manageable to support their development as much as possible.

At what age do the signs and symptoms of ASD appear in children?

Common signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children can show as early as 12 to 18 months of age, typically appearing before the age of 3. 

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are unique to the individual. Signs of ASD can be more distinct in certain children than others, with symptoms appearing at different stages throughout their development.

Parents may start recognising signs of autism spectrum disorder quite early on in a child’s development. However, it can be quite hard to determine at this age, and many children go undiagnosed. This is a missed opportunity for early intervention and support, which is imperative for their developmental progress and overall quality of life.

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by Age

It can be hard to recognise signs of autism in children, as symptoms of ASD may not be very noticeable.

It’s important to remember that although some children may display the characteristics listed below, that does not immediately indicate that they are autistic. The presence or absence of certain developmental features is not definitive proof of autism. Always seek out a licensed psychologist for an official diagnosis.  

Here are a few of the key signs at each stage of childhood that could indicate autism spectrum disorder.

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at 6-12 months

Some of the most common signs of ASD in children between 6-12 months of age may include:

  • Not yet crawling
  • Not pointing to pictures or objects
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Unable to stand even when supported 
  • Unbalanced movements
  • Incomprehensible speech or lack of babbling
  • Not holding onto or reaching for objects
  • Not making gestures such as shaking their head or waving

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at 12-24 months

Common early signs of autism spectrum disorder in children between the ages of 12-24 months include:

  • Struggling to follow simple spoken instructions
  • Limited ability to gesture and copy others’ actions
  • Unwilling to share objects or activities they are interested in
  • Not trying to engage the attention of others
  • Strong curiosity in specific objects, while ignoring others
  • Limited or no speech
  • Engaging in repetitive actions and activities, such as lining up objects 
  • Walking only on their toes
  • Showing an intense interest in unusual or unexpected objects or materials

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at 24-36 months

Common signs of autism spectrum disorder in children between the ages of 24-36 months may include:

  • Exhibiting limited or no sensitivity to sensory experiences such as hunger, heat, touch
  • Presenting very little interest in other children
  • Problems following simple verbal instructions
  • Displaying barely any interest in imaginative play
  • Easily upset by change, and wanting routines to be followed
  • Being fixated on playing only with certain toys, activities, or actions
  • Limited speech
  • Extreme sensitivity to sight, sound, smell, taste and some other sensory experiences

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children

At New Vision Psychology, Autism Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed through an comprehensive ASD assessment process which takes place over 10 hours across four sessions with a qualified ASD psychologist who will provide a professional diagnosis.

1. First session – Initial consultation
2. Second session – Clinical interview (ADI-R)
3. Third session – Autism assessment (ADOS-2)
4. Four session – Psychologist’s report 

New Vision Psychology offers autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and services for children. Contact us today to make a booking with our experienced psychologists in Sydney.