According to Jeanne Segal, PhD, signs of autism become evident between the ages of 18 and 36 months old, with diagnosis typically taking place by the age of three. However, symptoms can be noticed as early as infancy. The early signs of autism can be easily missed simply because you are looking for the absence of normal behavior rather than the presence of abnormal behavior. The sooner you recognize the symptoms, which can present themselves in a number of developmental areas, the more effective the treatment may be for your child.
According to the Harvard Medical School, babies who are passive at six months then irritable at 12 months are at higher risk for being autistic. One of the most common symptoms of this is your child's verbal development.
Children at nine months of age are usually beginning to babble or trying to form simple words such as "mama" or "dada." If your child has begun doing this and suddenly stops, this may be an indication of autism spectrum disorder. He may also be having difficulty forming or learning new words or may not be able to express what he wants. Many babies will point to what they want; a child with autism is unable to do this due to a lack of comprehension.
Your child may display a lack of emotion or become rigid when you attempt to hold her and kiss her. This is atypical of children who are nine months of age. Many toddlers enjoy personal contact, yet a child with autism doesn't understand emotion. This is why she may pull away from you.
She may also show an indifference to being held by other adults or people she doesn't know. Typically, children at this age will cry for a caregiver when held by a stranger. Children with autism generally do not become upset when taken from their parents.
Just as your child may display verbal symptoms, he may also display non-verbal signs as well. One sign which should be a red flag for you is calling his name and receiving no response. Generally by nine months of age, a child will turn and look when his name is called.
He may also refuse to make eye contact with you, another red flag for concern. This is especially true if you try to play games like peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake with him. These are games most babies love, as gales of laughter are emitted from their mouthes. No response or interest in these games should be a major cause for concern.
Many babies move from one toy to another when they are playing alone. However if your child is autistic, she may be obsessed with one toy or particular type of toy for hours. If she has lined her blocks up in a perfect row and one accidentally gets knocked out of place, she may become uncontrollably upset.
Another common symptom is the need for the same routine every day. She may like her meals at the same time, her bath at a particular time and expect bedtime at the same time each night. If her routine is broken, you may notice her becoming inconsolable or, in some cases, out of control with her behavior.
The last thing in this category to watch for are repetitive movements such as rocking back and forth for long periods or flapping her hands.