• Laurie Tarter, Psy.D, BCBA, LBA

Early Warning Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can look different for each individual. In order to make a diagnosis, a doctor will look at an individual’s developmental history and behavior. ASD can be diagnosed as young as 18 months, or younger. A diagnosis by the age of 2 can be considered reliable when provided by an experienced professional.

One in every 54 children are diagnosed with autism in the United States (2020, CDC.gov). Approximately 4 boys for 1 every girl are diagnosed with autism, with girls being diagnosed later in life than boys (2018, Duke University School of Medicine).

It is important to diagnosis an individual as early as possible and provide appropriate early interventions to help close any developmental delays. The CDC provides a list, both in English and in Spanish, of key developmental milestones for children as young as 2 months old through 5 years old: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

Some early warning signs that toddlers between 12-24 months who are at risk for autism spectrum disorder might display are:

· Displays unusual hand or body movements

· Displays unusual sensory sensitivities

· Plays with toys in an unusual manner

· Uses an unusual tone when babbling or talking

· Carries common or uncommon items / objects for an extended period of time.

· May not explore new things

· May be difficult to soothe or overly fussy

Some early warning signs that toddlers between 12-24 months who are at risk for autism spectrum disorder might not display are:

· Smile in response to another’s smile

· Point to request

· Make eye contact

· Try to gain others attention

· Show objects to others

· Show shared enjoyment

· Say their first word by 12-14 months

· Respond to their name

· Looks when you try to direct their attention

Finding a medical provider or psychologist that utilizes empirically-based measures to diagnose an individual with autism spectrum disorder is important. Some common diagnostic tools that a provider may utilize to assess ASD are: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule™, Second Edition (ADOS™-2), Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI®-R), Childhood Autism Rating Scale™, Second Edition (CARS™2), and Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, Third Edition (GARS-3).

Once a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, it is important to look into what services their local schools, community agencies, and medical insurance agencies may provide. Finding parent/caregiver support groups can also be beneficial to help parents/caregivers find support, as well as learn how to navigate the system of services available. Some available resources are:

· https://www.autismspeaks.org/support-family-members https://www.autismspeaks.org/south-florida

· https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resource_Centers/Autism_Resource_Center/Home.aspx

· https://www.autism-society.org


We are pleased to be able to offer autism diagnostic testing services here at Lotus Behavioral Interventions via telehealth during the global COVID-19 pandemic, a time during which we know a lot of families are struggling to get their child the services they need to succeed. Should you have any questions pertaining to developmental milestones, delays, assessments, autism diagnostic testing or ABA therapy services for your child, please feel free to reach out to us. It would be our pleasure to help your child blossom into his or her fullest developmental potentials.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

Duke University School of Medicine (2018, March 28). Girls in the Autism Spectrum are Being Overlooked. Retrieved from https://ipmh.duke.edu/news/girls-autism-spectrum-are-being-overlooked

Szalavitz, M. (2016, March 01). Autism--It's Different in Girls. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/autism-it-s-different-in-girls/


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