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Checklists of early autism in infants, toddlers, young children, older children, and girls!

There are multiple sources online which discuss the signs of early autism in children. To save you time, we've researched multiple sources, and have added the key content into one article for your convenience. The resources used will be linked at the end of the article, in case you wish to learn more.

Firstly, it's important to understand that all children learn behaviours and skills as they grow, and the pace at which this happens will naturally vary from child to child. However, there are certain developmental milestones that children can be expected to reach within an average or typical timeframe. If you are concerned that your child's rate of development is different to that of their peers, and you think they may have autism, the checklists below may be helpful. However, please keep in mind that these checklists are not a definitive diagnosis, so please seek professional advice if these concerns still arise.

Autism will have multiple symptoms, depending on both the age and the gender of the child. These are,

Autism in young children

Signs of autism in young children include:

  • not responding to their name

  • avoiding eye contact

  • not smiling when you smile at them

  • getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound

  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body

  • not talking as much as other children

  • not doing as much pretend play

  • repeating the same phrases

Autism in older children

Signs of autism in older children include:

  • not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling

  • unusual speech, such as repeating phrases and talking ‘at’ others

  • liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes

  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities

  • getting very upset if you ask them to do something

  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own

  • taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like "break a leg"

  • finding it hard to say how they feel

Autism in girls

Autism can sometimes be different in girls and boys. This means autism can be harder to spot in girls and is commonly misdiagnosed, as Dr Camilla Pang stated,

Autistic girls may:

  • hide some signs of autism by copying how other children behave and play

  • withdraw in situations they find difficult

  • appear to cope better with social situations

  • show fewer signs of repetitive behaviours

Autism in babies

Early signs of autism in babies (6 months to one year) may include:

  • Reacting in an unexpected way to new faces

  • Rarely smiling in social situations

  • Making little or no eye contact

  • Difficulty in following objects with their eyes

  • Hearing their name does not produce a response

  • Having limited or no reaction to loud sounds, or not turning their head to locate sounds

  • Overreacting to some sounds

  • Displaying a lack of interest in interactive games, like peek-a-boo

  • Chattering, or imitating sounds and words is limited

  • Gestures like pointing at an object they want or waving back at others are limited

  • Tendency not to imitate the actions of other people

  • Dislike of being touched or cuddled, or not reaching out when about to be picked up, or

  • Displaying unusual or repetitive body movements.

Early signs of autism in toddlers (up to 24 months) may include:

  • Limited or no speech

  • Only walking on their toes

  • Difficulty in following simple verbal instructions

  • Gestures and imitating others’ actions are limited

  • Showing an intense interest in certain objects, at the exclusion of all else

  • Showing an intense interest in unusual or unexpected objects or materials

  • Unwillingness to share objects or activities they are interested in, or to engage the attention of others, or

  • Engaging in repetitive actions and activities, such as putting objects into lines or groups, etc.

Early signs of autism in young children (up to 36 months) may include:

  • Limited speech

  • Difficulties in being able to follow simple verbal instructions

  • Showing little interest in imaginative play, such as pretend games

  • Showing little interest in other children

  • Wanting routines to be followed and being upset by change

  • Extreme sensitivity to sight, sound, smell, taste and some other sensory experiences

  • Displaying limited or no sensitivity to some sensory experiences such as heat, cold, touch, hunger, thirst or pain, or

  • Becoming fixated on playing with particular toys, activities or actions.



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