Signs and Symptoms

The hallmark symptoms of autism include:

  • Erratic eye contact
  • Limited facial expression; lack of a social smile
  • Lack of appropriate gestures such as pointing and showing
  • Restricted range of interests
  • Repetitive behaviors and preoccupation with unusual things
  • Poor social interactions
  • Odd or ritualistic behaviors like rocking, hand flapping, or an obsessive need to maintain order
  • Language delays

Autism is a spectrum disorder; one child might have a number of signs and another child might have few, but what they have in common are problems with communication ability and social interaction.

When to Seek Professional Help

You should seek professional help and guidance when your child:

  • Fails to talk at a developmentally appropriate age and resists cuddling
  • Avoids interaction and fails to respond to others
  • Shows a loss of any language or social skills at any age
  • Does not:
    • Babble by 12 months of age
    • Gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months
    • Turn when called by name by 12 months
    • Point by 15 months
    • Say single words by 16 months
    • Say two-word phrases on his/her own (rather than repeating what someone else says) by 24 months of age

How Autism is Treated

There is no specific medical test, but psychiatric, neuropsychological and genetic tests are useful. Intervention at an early age by a team, which may include a special educator, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist and/or a physical therapist, depending on the child's needs, is critical.

The Risks of Not Treating a Child with Autism

Depending on severity, undetected or untreated autism may lead to:

  • Daily routine functioning and self-care at a low level
  • Cognitive and language limitations
  • Problems with school adjustment
  • Poor social relationships
  • Inability to live independently

More Information

For more information and a list of related articles, visit the Autistic, Aspergers and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders page of our A-Z Disorder Guide.