18 Ways to Tell if Your Child Has Autism


autismToday it's estimated that 1 in every 110 children is diagnosed with some form of autism. That's more than cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. That's too many, and no doubt a huge source of concern for parents who wonder if their child will be affected by this strange and mysterious disorder that can have devastating effects for life.

Everyone has an idea of what autism looks like, and many of us study our children for any telltale signs of it. The problem is that many of the symptoms alone are perfectly normal in children, but it's a collection of them together that can indicate autism. For example, my son loved ceiling fans, which worried me to no end because I'd read that a fascination with ceiling fans could indicate autism. In our case, he just so happened to like fans, but otherwise developed typically.

While it can be difficult to balance watchfulness and worry when it comes to our children's health, it's important to know what to look for because early intervention can be so vital in the treatment of autism. No two children with autism are exactly the same, but here's a list from the Mayo Clinic of 18 common traits of children with autism that encompass social skills, behavior, and language.

1. Fails to respond to his or her name

2. Has poor eye contact

3. Appears not to hear you at times

4. Resists cuddling and holding

5. Appears unaware of others' feelings

6. Seems to prefer playing alone -- retreats into his or her "own world"

7. Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months

8. Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences

9. Doesn't make eye contact when making requests

10. Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm -- may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech

11. Can't start a conversation or keep one going

12. May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them

13. Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping

14. Develops specific routines or rituals

15. Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals

16. Moves constantly

17. May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car

18. May be unusually sensitive to light, sound, and touch and yet oblivious to pain

It's a good list to be familiar with, not to obsess over but to help you identify any red flags. The site provides other helpful information about the disorder as well. If you have any concerns, however, the best thing to do is contact your doctor. Sitting home and obsessing over things like ceiling fans isn't going to do anyone any good.

Do you worry about symptoms of autism in your child?

Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr

a mom's life, autism, toddler health


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ArmyW... ArmyWife8297

wow i didnt know this, thanks for posting..learned somthing new

chell... chellyelizabeth

My question with a list like this is what is the magic number of items on this list that your child shows that deems it autism? Three of these things could describe my son, does that mean he's autistic? I don't think he is, in fact the ones that describe him could also describe OCD or any other number of issues.  That's the problem with articles like these, although I do like how concise the list is. Some things on this list kids could outgrow. This is either going to make some mom feel better or call her child's doctor in a panic!

tiny_... tiny_mama

@Chelly, better to call your doctor in a panic and it turns out to be nothing than just letting it go on, early interventions are they key to helping autistic children function as normal as possible. :)


I have a little bit of experience in this area considering I have 3 autistic children. ;)

Marj Pike Hatzell

Early intervention never hurts. If you suspect your child has a few of these symptoms, it is best to have him/her evaluated. Some things they will outgrow, yes. But many of them they will not. And they may increase in severeity. Early intervention is KEY to success.


btw, pediatricians are RARELY qualified to screen your child for autism or other developmental delays. If you suspect something you should call either a developmental ped, a neuro or your county/school district's intervention office.

sodapple sodapple

I have a friend whose brother is autistic he does many of these things and he was just diagnosed at almost 5 yrs old.

Toni Lombardo Coleman

You need to change the one about spinning wheels on a car to something more general like "does not play appropriately with toys." That includes just spinning the wheels of toy cars, but also includes things like throwing them straight up in the car to watch them come down over and over, or setting up a tea party but not actually "playing tea party" (just setting up the dishes and the tea party "plays" itself) Another one is when playing with a "friend," the friend can have no input to the way the play goes. There is no back and forth.

Additionally, lack of interest in sharing experiences.

Finally, the Sally-Anne test:

An extraordinary number of ASD children will not get the right answer on this.

Toni Lombardo Coleman

BTW, a pet-peeve of mine is (are?) those who "calm" a nervous mom by telling her she is over-reacting. It would be better to get the interventions before age 3 when a child is slightly behind than waiting till age 6 or 7 when the child has missed so many milestones and opportunities to re-build missing developmental pathways. I feel it's never too late, but it is harder. Just like those who learn a second language as a child will learn it much easier than an adult who tries to do so... you have windows of opportunity and the best opportunity to recovering from a developmental disability would be the earliest intervention! :-) Good luck to those reading this and please keep in mind that some autism is in fact mitochondrial disease... and if you don't know for sure, can't rule that out, then consider mitochondrial support like high dose vitamins (see UMDF.org) Your kid may end up with very expensive urine, or may actually improve. Peace! xxoo

Bruce Schmitz


Just found that "Get Samples 123" is promoting a wide variety of major brands by providing free samples. You’ll have to fill in your zip code to see if you can qualify to receive them. You can get all samples from one place. I think it is available for most of the zip codes and it worked for me.

Mommy... Mommyrivera0822

My four year old has autism. He was diagnosed at two. He has had full blown eci since the monh he was diagnosed. he is now in his second year of ppcd and at home therapies. I praise god for him. While he still has no voice and all the same behavior issues my boy is as n absolute lover. A constant hugger, kisser, cuddler and even groper:) thank the lord for he is great.


nonmember avatar angelica

i think my eighteen month old son may have autism he does everything on that list im really worried is there a blood test to tell his doctor diganosed him with pica already

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