The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an autism screening at all 18- and 24-month well-child visits and anytime a parent or doctor has concerns. But you don’t have to wait. You can request an autism screening any time from your child’s doctor and/or your states early intervention program. Such a screening does not diagnose autism. Rather, it looks further at the behaviors that are considered “red flags” for autism.
Depending on the screening results, your doctor may refer your child to a specialist for a full diagnostic evaluation for autism. However, you don’t need an autism diagnosis for your child to begin receiving services for related developmental delays or learning challenges. So keep in mind that you can begin accessing services to help your child while you wait on a full evaluation. Again, regardless of whether your child receives an autism diagnosis, he or she is entitled to federally mandated services.
What are some of the signs of autism?
Possible signs of autism in babies and toddlers:
- By 6 months, no social smiles or other warm, joyful expressions directed at people
- By 6 months, limited or no eye contact
- By 9 months, no sharing of vocal sounds, smiles or other nonverbal communication
- By 12 months, no babbling
- By 12 months, no use of gestures to communicate (e.g. pointing, reaching, waving etc.)
- By 12 months, no response to name when called
- By 16 months, no words
- By 24 months, no meaningful, two-word phrases
- Any loss of any previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
Possible signs of autism at any age:
- Avoids eye contact and prefers to be alone
- Struggles with understanding other people’s feelings
- Remains nonverbal or has delayed language development
- Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Gets upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Has highly restricted interests
- Performs repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking or spinning
- Has unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors