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Autism is one of a group of developmental conditions called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that appear in early childhood - usually before age 3. Some children show signs of autism in early infancy. Other children may develop without signs of autism for the first few months or years of life but then suddenly demonstrate a change in personality traits or skill sets as they age. Children with autism are generally affected in three crucial areas of development -- social interaction, language and behaviour, but because autism indicators vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. In most cases, though, severe autism is typically marked by unique communicative styles and methods of social interaction.


The number of children diagnosed with autism is rising.   About 1 in 44 children in the United States and 1 in 66 children in Canada have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network and Public Health Canada respectively.   While there is no cure for autism, early intensive and specialized care and treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children with the disorder.


  • Limited or scarce eye contact

  • Apparent disinterest in social engagement

  • Does not react by looking at people when they are making “social sounds,” such as humming or clapping

  • Increased interest in objects over individuals

  • Limited reciprocal smiling with others

  • Apparent lack of interest in watching facial expressions of others

  • Isolation of smiling from eye contact

  • A lack of babble (or babbling is incoherent in nature)

  • Does not look at objects that another person is looking at

  • Does not try to engage other people in what they are looking at or doing

  • Limited interactive gestures, such as giving, showing or reaching for others

  • Lack of a response when their name is called

  • Disconnection from intense emotions of others, such as crying 

  • Limited gestures, such as waving “hi” or “bye,” or use of the index finger to point

  • Lack of engagement towards an object that is pointed to

  • Limited shared interests with others- for example, pointing out an appealing toy to others

  • Limited imitation of common activities of others, such as sweeping the floor

  • Feels challenged by new interactive routines

  • A lack of interest in pretend or make-believe play, such as feeding a doll

  • Does not use single words by 16 months

  • Does not spontaneously use meaningful two-word phrases (“go car” or “look doggie”) by 24 months

  • Significant loss of language or social skills that they once had

  • Echoing what others say (echolalia) without regular spontaneous speech

  • Demonstrating speech that sounds mechanical, almost robotic

  • Using limited or atypical facial expressions

  • Preferring solitary play or does not show interest in other children

  • May not enjoy cuddling or being touched, unless it is on their own terms

  • Displaying repetitive body movements (hand flapping, spinning)

  • Fixation upon a single object, such as a spoon or book

  • Demonstrating discomfort and lack of tolerance with changes in routine or environment, such as a new toothbrush or a replacement for a lost toy

  • Increased or decreased sensitivity to sensory experiences (light, texture, sound, taste, smell, movement)

  • Lines items up or puts things in order repeatedly

  • Exhibiting frequent tantrums and is difficult to console

  • Walking on tiptoes

  • Unusual eating & sleeping habits

  • Giving unrelated answers to questions

The presence of any one or a combination of these early signs does not necessarily mean that your child has an autism spectrum disorder.  If your child demonstrates any of these signs, please discuss your concerns with your pediatrician and ask for an autism screening.
Approved by Renaissance Learning Center and Renaissance Learning Academy, Jupiter, Florida
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