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Early Warning Signs of Autism

By Dr. Emily Schank, Pediatric Associates

Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) appears in infancy and early childhood and the effects can range from gifted to severely challenged. The signs and symptoms of ASD vary greatly, as do its effects.

As a parent, it’s best to spot the warning signs sooner, rather than later. Catching autism early – before your child reaches 18 months – can make a huge difference. Early intervention can reduce the disorder’s effects and help a child learn, grow and thrive.

Watch for these early warning signs of autism from


  • Slow to smile or laugh
  • Resists cuddling or holding
  • Doesn’t point to or show interest in objects
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Fails to respond to his name by 12 months

In Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Doesn’t engage in pretend play by 18 months
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Doesn’t understand feelings in other people
  • Doesn’t speak or speaks with an abnormal rhythm or tone
  • Gives unrelated answers to questions
  • Appears to ignore you when you make a request
  • Repeats certain words or phrases over and over
  • Develops specific routines or rituals
  • Throws temper tantrums in response to minor changes in routine
  • Intentionally and repeatedly inflicts harm on himself
  • Becomes obsessively interested in something
  • Moves spastically, flaps hands, rocks or spins
  • Reacts to sounds, smells and touch in an unusual way
  • Has unusual food preferences

If you child is displaying any of the behaviors listed above, talk to your CHKD pediatrician. Don’t wait. Early intervention has been shown to improve outcomes for children with autism.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.