Autism Diagnosis

Early signs of autism can often be detected in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder. Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention (sharing an experience of observing an object or event by gazing or pointing), or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways, like lining them up or focusing on parts of toys rather than the whole. Parents who notice these signs, or are concerned their children are not meeting developmental milestones, should contact their pediatricians and request a developmental screening. Learn more about the early warning signs of autism here. Early diagnosis is critical because younger children respond better to interventions that improve functioning. Early treatment optimizes long-term prognosis. Several studies estimate that the gains associated with early treatment result in considerable cost savings to families, schools, and other service providers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening of all infants for autism as part of 18-month and 24-month well-baby examinations.