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Recognizing Early Signs of Autism in Children Under Age 3

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Understanding the autism signs can be tricky, especially in your first child. You’re unsure if the behavior is common for kids. If you sense that your child under 3 years of age has autism, these are the early signs to look out for.

Language Differences and Delays

Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show spoken language and nonverbal communication delays. You could see them repeating phrases they had heard for a long period. It could be from a family member, television show, or movie. They’ll also mimic the word or words in the exact tone of voice. This mimicking is echoing or parroting.

They could also use words for objects before using terms for family members or other people. Your child could also have trouble answering questions appropriately.

Conversely, your child could have met the toddler milestones, but their language usage is unusual. Maybe they talk more like an adult than a toddler. They use big words and complete sentences. This could be a sign of autism.

Lack of Social Skills

Children with autism lack many social skills that a neurotypical child has. By the age of 3, you’ve probably seen your child interact with another kid at the park, preschool, or other settings. Pay attention to your child’s eye contact with peers and adults. Watch how your child responds when someone asks to play with them. Would they rather play by themselves? Are they interested in socializing with others?

Having difficulty sharing or understanding why they have to share is a sign that your child could have autism. Not being interested in making friends or wanting to play with others is another sign. Many kids with autism will have trouble expressing their feelings or showing the appropriate facial expressions when interacting with other kids. They’ll also have difficulty understanding another person’s feelings.

If you think your child has autism, begin observing them and taking notes during social interactions. Pay close attention to their social skills and interactions. You’ll use these observations if you take your child in for an evaluation.

You Notice Irregular Behaviors

If your child has autism, there are irregular behaviors you may notice. When your child plays with their toys, are they lining them up in an organized way? Does your child have obsessive interests? Do they perform repetitive motions, such as rocking back and forth, hand flapping, and spinning? Any of these behaviors can signify that your child has autism.

Other behaviors include:

  • Becoming frustrated by small changes in daily routine
  • Impulsivity
  • A short attention span or hyperactivity
  • Developing odd habits and becoming frustrated when you don’t allow them to carry them out (like turning off the lights or always opening the door)
  • Self-injures (hitting, punching, or scratching themselves)
  • Being incredibly fearful or having no fear

Any of the above early signs of autism can be normal, but if you notice that your child has several of them, they may have autism. Contact your child’s pediatrician to begin the evaluation process. The earlier a child receives a diagnosis, the better. It means they’ll start early intervention ABA therapy and services. It will help them develop the social and life skills they need.

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