Signs of Autism in an 18 Month Old

Autism spectrum disorder is a brain disorder that affects a child's development. It can affect his speech, socialization skills and behavior. Though usually diagnosed between two to three years of age, symptoms of this disorder can present themselves during infancy. According to Jeanne Segal, psychologist, sociologist, author and managing editor of, the sooner your child is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. You must first recognize the symptoms before a diagnosis can be confirmed and intervention sought.

A small toddler in her mother's arms standing with her grandmother. (Image: Bec Parsons/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

Verbal Communication

By 18 months, your child should have the ability to say simple words and phrases. If your child is unable to repeat sounds or words back to you or cannot communicate simple words such as "mama," "dada" or "bye-bye," you have cause for concern. A delay in verbal communication is one of the most common symptoms among autistic children.

Another verbal indicator is your child losing his ability to talk. If he was once attempting to speak and then suddenly stops, you should not waste a moment in making a doctor's appointment.

Non-Verbal Communication

Children at 18 months use as many non-verbal communication methods to express their needs as they do spoken words. If you find your child is unable to point to what she may want or need or fails to respond when you ask her what she wants, autism may be the cause.

One of the major symptoms of autism is unresponsiveness. By 18 months, your baby should recognize her name when called. She should also make eye contact with you when you speak with her and engage in games such as peek-a-boo. However, if she fails to turn when her name is called as though she's not hearing you, if she fails to look into your eyes or shows no emotion when you engage in games toddlers love, it may be time to speak with your doctor.


Autistic children like a set routine: meals at the same time each day, baths and bed at the same time each night. When this routine is not strictly adhered to, you may notice your child becoming extremely upset and out of control. He may pose a risk to himself and those around him as he acts out in anger and frustration. This can even occur if you take a different route on your walk to the park; anything he is not accustomed to can set him off easily and make him difficult to console.


Children suffering from autism will find it difficult to make friends. It is not that she doesn't want to make friends; she doesn't understand emotion and communication. You may find that she plays by herself frequently, obsessing over one particular toy. At 18 months, children begin exploring and playing with multiple objects; if you notice your baby is not doing these things, it is a warning sign that shouldn't be ignored.


Finally, autistic children have a tendency to perform repetitive movements or repeat certain sounds repeatedly. Rocking back and forth for long periods of time and flapping his hands are definite signs of autism at 18 months.

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