The signature of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in a child is atypical development of behavior, social skills, and ability to communicate. These signs might be apparent from birth, or may not become noticeable until the child is a few years old, usually by the age of three.

Children with an ASD might not have any friends or other interactions with children their own age. They may not show what is considered “normal” play behavior, including usual use of toys, imitation, or pretend play. Instead, they will likely show a preoccupation with a particular object or interest and show a significant need to stick to specific routines through the day.

Children may repeat the same gestures or other motions, which can include:

  • flapping hands
  • rocking their bodies
  • turning in circles

They might also show sensitivity­­—in some cases extreme—to sights, sounds, smells, and things they touch or that touch them.

Both verbal and other forms of communication may be limited, lost, or even lacking entirely. The child may have problems conversing and could also parrot what they hear from other people or from the radio, television, and other sources instead of developing original speech patterns.

A child with an ASD may avoid eye contact, not show affection to parents or others, or fail to acknowledge affectionate behavior exhibited towards him or her.

The severity of these symptoms can vary, and a child might show many or very few of them. If you are seeing any of these signs, it does not necessarily mean that your child has a disorder on the autism spectrum, but it can be a good indicator that it is time to visit the doctor.

It is also important to see a doctor regularly so the child can be observed by a clinician who is constantly around children. It may be difficult for a parent to notice any uniqueness to their child’s behavior because they are not familiar with typical patterns of development.