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The Top Ten Signs of Autism You Need to Watch for in Your Infant

Tim Boyer's picture
Autism signs in infants

Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one out of every 110 American children has autism. While a diagnosis of autism is generally not made until a child has reached an age between 2-3 years, signs of impeding diagnosis can appear as early as within the first year of life in 6 to 12 month old children. Researchers involved in autism research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute offer the following ten signs of autism you need to watch for in your infant:

Ten Signs of Autism in Infants

1. Does your child rarely smile when approached by caregivers?

2. Does your child rarely try to imitate sounds and movements others make, such as smiling and laughing, during simple social exchanges?

3. Is your child delayed in voicing baby babble or babbles infrequently?

4. Does your child fail to respond to his or her name with increasing consistency from 6-12 months?

5. Does your child not use gestures when communicating by age 10 months?

6. Does your child make poor eye contact with you or others?

7. Does your child seek your attention infrequently?

8. Does your child repeatedly stiffens arms, hands, legs or displays unusual body movements such as rotating the hands on the wrists, uncommon postures or other repetitive behaviors?

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9. Does your child typically not reach up toward you when you reach down to pick him or her up?

10. Do you see delays in motor development, including delayed rolling over, pushing up and crawling?

ALSO SEE: An Autism Breakfast That Changed Mom’s Perspective: How an Unexpected Encounter Helped One Parent To Cope With Autism Stress.

While observing one or more of the aforementioned signs is not a guarantee that your infant has or will develop autism, neither is a lack of any of the signs at such an early age a guarantee that your child will never develop autism.

According to Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD, the ten signs are meant to empower parents who are the ones most likely to notice the early warning signs that something developmental may not be right with their child.

“We want to encourage parents to become good observers of their children’s development so that they can see the earliest indicators of delays in a baby’s communication, social and motor skills,” says Dr. Landa. “If parents suspect something is wrong with their child's development, or that their child is losing skills, they should talk to their pediatrician or another developmental expert…don’t adopt a ‘wait and see’ perspective. We want to identify delays early in development so that intervention can begin when children's brains are more malleable and still developing their circuitry.”

The ten signs of autism in infants is the result of recent research by scientists at the Kennedy Krieger Institute who have found that early detection of autism leads to early interventions that can improve the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in very young children.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile


Kennedy Krieger Institute news release

“Clinical Trial of Autism Early Intervention Reveals Significant Improvements in Toddlers' Social and Communication Skills” Kennedy Krieger Institute clinical trial news report




The "wait and see" perspective was the only one doctors were willing to take when my son (now 14) was that age. I was desperate for answers and the only thing anyone would tell me was that it was "too early" and to bring him back after he turned three.
I knew something was up with my little boy from about 8 months. He didnt sit, prefered being upside down and seemed to have over sensitive skin on some parts of his body and under sensitive skin on other parts... I decided to skip the paed and go straight to an occupational therapist for a full assessment. She refered us to a paediatric neurologist after the 1st month of weekly therapy. He was diagnosed by the neurologist with severe autism 5 days after his first birthday 20th of july this year. I have since quit my job to do daily therapy with him. He is progressing so well, eye contact has improved tremendously, he is eating well. He has normal sleeping patterns. He has also been crawling now for 2 weeks and has started pulling himself up into a standing position. EARLY INTERVENTION! Parents out there: follow your instincts! I know i havent dealt with even half the problems other 'autism parents' have but im staying positive!!!
Good for you!!!! Early intervention is so important. I had my son in therapy by14 months. He is now a thriving 5 year old that talks and plays with others and is at grade level. My hope is to have him mainstream in the next year or two. I swear by ABA therapy. Stay positive. There will be really hard days but there are also amazing days too!!
This is really an odd article as my son was not diagnosed with Aspergers until he was in 7th grade!!! He had NONE of the infant warning signs and we knew something was 'different' but we had no idea! We had to deal heavily with Social Services telling us that we were bad parents and making us attend parenting classes... which were of no use for our own issues, and they made our lives a living HELL while we had problems still ongoing. We finally MOVED out of the state and they still tried to make problems for us at our NEW ADDRESS!!! He is now 18 and also still working on getting his high school diploma, not because he had educational problems but because he was too smart and school was boring to him. He was uninterested and would refuse to go, was bullied, didn't want to be around the noise and classes. Now FINALLY he has found his best spot here in a vocational tech school connected to his high school AND he is earning college credit in becoming a computer specialist. He has a very high IQ and his only major issues are the 'social' aspects. God BLESS all children, especially the autism children AND their parents!!!
My son was the same and now is 16. He didn't get diagnosed til he was 12 years old, I was also told I was a bad parent by my family doctor. And that's a hard pill to swallow when you try so hard and you have no support. We saw signs, it wasn't right there in your face, but no one wouldn't believe us, at times, our own family. He is also struggling in school, misses a lot. He says everyday school is boring when he does go. Don't think he is bullied now (he was his first year in high school) but he has a lot of issues with stomach problems- anxiety/bowels. He also wants to work with computers as that is his passion- well, mostly online gaming. God bless you as well and your dedication to your son.
Hi there, after reading your comment, I suggest you check out nonPariel Institute on Plano, TX. They work with Asperger/Autism young adults and teach them gaming software, programming, graphic design, etc. it sounds like it may be something for your son since he likes computers. They train one-on-one. But, there are 600 on the waiting list.
These early signs for infants certainly would help me to identify a possible Autism diagnosis. Now that they are there for all to see. I could have done with this info many years ago, when I knew there was a problem with my son, but when I asked the health professionals for any help as to what it could be, I was told that he'd grow out of it, or they thought I was just having trouble as a parent, & wanted to send me to a Parenting course. Also I remember a GP saying that some kids are just different or special. I had to fight hard to get a diagnosis & I never got it till he was 8 yrs old. My son had very stiff legs whilst I tried to put a nappy on him. He also didn't make hand gestures much, never babbled, & used to bang his head on his cot repetitively whilst rocking on all fours. He could not talk until age 4, but it was just a few utterances. His talking gradually improved with speech therapy. Anyway I definitely see signs in this list that I could see with my son as an infant. I hope it helps someone to point them in the right direction. <3
I have a 3 year old.. and a 16 year old the 16 year old was originally diagnosed with Aspergers he is now on the Autism spectrum.... Both my husband and I agree that our 3 year also has similar characteristics to our 16 year old.... but have been told that here in Australia because of the tightening of the criteria for diagnosing even though I've been told my 3 year old has a delay and will need occupational and speech he wont get a diagnosis ... my 16 year old was diagnosed at 6 because no one would listen when he was 3 he missed out on all the early intervention which is so important and here we are 13 years later and we have the same problem with our youngest ....I'm frustrated!!
My child exhibited NONE of these signs and is now 23 and autistic. There are more signs, some of them sensory. Does your child have a normal reaction to pain? Is he/she overly sensitive to sounds easily tolerated by others? Does your child sniff objects? Does your child dislike having his/her head touched? Does your child line up objects and ignore the social antics of other children?
Hello, I was wondering if anybody could help me with symptoms of a 8 year old with aspergers. I have been concerned for a while about some of my sons behaviour. (He's not naughty, in fact the complete opposite he just does things 'different' to other children his age) the school is not taking me seriously because he doesn't 'play up'. Thank you