Toddler Development - Red Flags for Autism

Here are some red flags for Autism. These red flags are not meant as a diagnostic tool, only as early warning signs.

What to watch for in toddlers aged 12-24 months

  • No words by 16 months
  • Doesn't seem to know how to play with toys or excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • Is attached to one particular toy or object
  • At times, seems to be hearing impaired
  • Does not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Does not play "pretend" games (e.g. pretend to "feed" a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoids eye contact and wants to be alone 
  • Avoids or resists physical contact 
  • Is not comforted by others during distress 
  • Gives unrelated answers to questions
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Flaps his hands, rocks his body, or spins in circles
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
  • Has flat or inappropriate facial expressions
  • Has a loss of speech or babbling or social skills

What to watch for in toddlers 2 years and older

  • Has a lack of gestures: pointing, reaching, waving, showing
  • Has a lack of sharing interest or enjoyment with others
  • Does repetitive movements with objects 
  • Lack of appropriate eye gaze 
  • Has a lack of response to name (something parents report very frequently) 
  • Has a lack of warm, joyful expressions 
  • Unusual prosody (rhythm and intonation of language talks in a flat, robot-like, or sing-song voice)
  • Does repetitive movements or posturing of the body
  • Has no two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Has trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings 
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Only interacts to achieve a desired goal
  • Does not understand personal space boundaries 
  • Avoids or resists physical contact 
  • Is not comforted by others during distress
  • Gives unrelated answers to questions
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Flaps her hands, rocks her body, or spins in circles
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel 
  • Has flat or inappropriate facial expressions 
  • Plays with toys the same way every time 
  • Likes parts of objects (e.g. wheels)
  • Is very organized 
  • Has to follow certain routines
  • Doesn't seem to know how to play with toys, or excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • At times, seems to be hearing impaired