Autism In Children: The Signs And How To Support Your Child

There are a variety of signs and symptoms of autism. Some depend on the developmental age and stage of the child, and others depend on the individual. However, there are some general signs that can indicate ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder.


autism in children


Many children show symptoms of autism by 12-18 months. Signs of autism can be seen as early as 18 – 24 months when the CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) screening is used, but many parents see signs well before this. This means that there may be some signs that show up in the first year or two. These can include:

  • Very little, or no eye contact
  • Not responding to their name
  • No babbling
  • Late to begin smiling
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Does not enjoy being cuddled


In some cases, you might notice that while your child had some of these skills, they seem to have regressed and lost them.

Some parents find that the signs of autism can become more noticeable as their child grows into a toddler. This may include:

  • Not showing an interest in objects that are age-appropriate
  • Getting upset at certain sensory factors like tastes, smells or sounds.
  • Using repetitive movements such as hand flapping, or rocking.


For both younger and older children you may notice the following:

  • Isn’t speaking or isn’t speaking at a similar level to their peers
  • Has a limited inventory of gestures, sounds and words
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Isn’t really interested in other children
  • Struggles to express or understand their feelings, or the feelings of other people
  • Takes things literally
  • Likes a strict routine, and doesn’t like to have that routine interrupted
  • Is very interested in specific subjects or activities, and may talk about these interests in a repetitive manner


Difference Between Girls And Boys


The signs of autism are different in every child and range from mild to more severe. Because of this, there isn’t really a definitive list that applies to every child. It’s also important to remember that boys are diagnosed more often, with a ratio varying from 2:1 to 16:1 compared to diagnosis of girls. There are some similarities between boys and girls, but girls may:

  • Be quieter
  • Hide their feelings and any discomfort better
  • Be better at imitating social behaviours, and behaviours of peers


Essentially, this means that girls are better at ‘covering’ and so their behaviours and traits tend to be noticed less.


What To Do


If you’ve noticed some traits or behaviours, the first thing you need to do is talk to someone. It could be your GP, your health visitor if your child is under five, or the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) at your child’s school. Ask for your child to be referred for an autism assessment. It can help if you write a list of the behaviours you’ve noticed and bring it with you. Ask other people who know your child well to note down any behaviours that they’ve noticed.


Autism Assessment


An autism assessment will involve a team of specialists who assess your child. They may ask you what you’ve noticed, or if there are problems in their development. They may watch how your child interacts with people, including eye contact, and speech. They may also ask for input from other people in your child’s life such as family, the GP, or your child’s teachers. You should be aware that there is often a long waiting list for autism assessments, and it could be quite some time before you get an appointment.

In the meantime, it can help if you adopt ASD coping practices to help your little one. This could mean that you use a visual daily timetable to help them understand their day-to-day activities, or that you use the now-and-then strategy to explain changes to their timetable.