Autism Symptoms
Does My Child Have Autism, PDD, or Asperger Syndrome?

Does your child have trouble communicating?  Avoid eye contact?  Talk endlessly about a self-focused subject?  You may wonder, “Does my child have Autism Symptoms?”   Spokane parents who call Year For Change often spend a lot of time hoping these concerns will go away, and even more time worrying that they won’t.  You may feel similar.

The best advice - don’t wait! Your child may be perfectly fine, or may need additional help.  Only moving toward the issues of concern will tell you for sure.  If your child needs help, early intervention is critical

Autism Symptoms (Autism Checklist)

Use the Autism Checklist below to determine whether your child exhibits any behaviors which may suggest an Autism Spectrum Disorder such as Autism, PDD, or Asperger Syndrome.  Click here to read more about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Types. 

This is a screening list only - some behaviors listed on the Autism Symptoms checklist are seen in typically developing children (without Autism) at certain ages or in certain circumstances, or in children with other challenges, so diagnosis is best left to professionals. 

Starred (*) items may be more significant “red flags.” 

Age 6 Months to 18 Months - “Red Flags” and Signs of Possible Autism

No smile (by 6 months).
Extreme irritability or unusually passive.
Decreased activity (by 6 months).
*Emotions not reciprocal, such as not returning adult smile (by 6 months).
*Low attention to people’s faces. 
Fixation on objects over people.
*Doesn’t babble.
*Mostly “flat” facial expressions, with little interest, joy or happiness (by 8 months).
*Doesn’t turn to own name (by 1 year).  May seem “deaf.”
*No anticipatory postures such as reaching to be picked up (by 15 months).

Age 18 Months to 2 Years - Additional “Red Flags” and Signs of Possible Autism

Back-and-Forth Social Interaction

*Tends not to share emotions with other people or participate “back and forth” with social partner (For example, cries without looking at adult face-to-face, does not return your smile or laugh).
*Social skills are not coordinated (looks at you while smiling, gesturing and making a sound or saying a word).
*Doesn’t bring items to adult to “show.”
*Regresses - Loses previous skills such as talking or social responses.
Doesn’t imitate (you clap but child doesn’t try to clap).
Infrequent or avoidant eye contact.
Uses others mostly as “tools” (for example, moves adult hand to item child wants, without eye contact).


*Speech delayed or absent (should say first words by 9-16 months).  Often doesn’t communicate in alternate ways (nodding, etc.).
*No social gestures requiring “joint attention” such as pointing to direct adult attention to object of interest, with eye contact (by 9 to 18 months).
Prolonged stage of echoing speech (copying what adult just said).  Adult:  “Do you want an apple?”  Child:  “Want apple?”
*Doesn’t use phrases to communicate (two words together by 2 years).

Behaviors, Interests, and Activities

Seems “disconnected” from people and “in his own world.”  Adults find it hard to get child’s attention away from objects.
*No make-believe play, such as stirring an empty cup with a spoon.
No purposeful play.
Repetitive movements with objects or preoccupied  with parts of objects, such as spinning car wheels, “petting” part of toy or furniture, rolling items, throwing or picking up items to watch them drop, opening and closing doors, running while watching a repetitive pattern like a fence, or rewinding one portion of a movie over and over…
Repetitive or odd movements with body that may look tic-like or serve no purpose such as toe-walking, jumping up and down, flapping hands, flicking fingers, “sighting” items by holding them beside eyes and squinting at them, waving hand in front of face, spinning, rocking, spinning while staring at item in outstretched hand, running in circles continuously, shaking head to feel hair on face, “talking through nose”…
Carries around or obsesses over unusual item (i.e., rather than wanting his favorite blanket for bedtime, child carries around a certain pen or yellow spoon wherever he goes and becomes upset if you try to take it).
Extreme insistence on sameness or routine, and becomes drastically upset if changed.  For example, very upset if you change schedule, drive on a different road to the store, or say something new before bedtime.
Extremely upset if variation in objects, such as only wants to eat from the green plate, or insists the blue block always have a ball on top of it.
Inflexible about certain non-functional routines or rituals (must line up toy cars on edge of table, or arrange alphabet letters on fridge and then say each letter) and gets upset if you intervene.
Repeats a word, phrase, or sentence over and over, which may have been overheard or used at another time (“white dog…white dog…white dog…”).
Gets very upset, angry, or anxious if you try to interrupt any of the above behaviors.

Above Age 2 – Additional Red Flags” and Signs of Possible Autism or Asperger Syndrome

Back-and-forth social interaction

*Doesn’t seem to notice or understand the needs or “state of mind” of others.
Doesn’t develop typical friendships or relationships.
Rarely expresses close feelings to others (i.e., I love you Mom or Dad).
Seems socially interested but awkward or inappropriate, such as not knowing what to say to greet a friend, or
Seems uninterested in making friends or participating socially.
May be “a loner” on playground or at other social gatherings.
Has trouble with social norms and may seem “rude.”  For example, picks nose at lunch, doesn’t greet others, or comments on “ugly” haircut.
Socially naïve, for example defining a “friend” as anyone who would provide candy.
Displays bizarre or odd social behavior, for example, howling like a wolf on the playground to get kids’ attention.
Displays social anxiety in situations other children usually feel are not stressful.
Extreme difficulty with emotional control.
Often extremely hurt or confused by social feedback from peers.


Doesn’t speak or delayed in learning language before age 3 (Autism or PDD only).
Did not seem to have typical cognitive (brain) development before age 3 (Autism and PDD only).
Doesn’t seem to understand what others say.
Repeats conversations from movies or other speech “out of context.”
Difficulty with back-and-forth conversation.  May be very “one-sided,” rarely asking others questions or talking too long.
Begins or ends interaction or conversation without consideration of the other person’s readiness or understanding.
Tone of voice or other aspects of speech such as rhythm seem “off,” not naturally flowing, or monotone.
Difficulty with understanding jokes or abstract ideas/language.
Difficulty coordinating social interaction, for example, speaking with more than one person at a time.
Difficulty expressing emotions and recognizing other’s emotions.
May read well (even advanced) but have difficulty with comprehension.
Difficulty with non-verbal communication.
Tendency to think only in concrete ways.

Behaviors, Interests, and Activities (Can Be Especially Strong in Asperger Syndrome)

Insistent on same schedule and unchanging placement of items in routines.
*Children who speak might obsess about one or more subjects such as a certain brand of train videos, collector’s cards, building toys, train schedules, flagpoles, etc. and prefer talking about them obsessively without attention to the listener.
May be unaware of social trends, for example, wants an out-of-date hairstyle or wears pants that are too short.
May be interested in play toys and topics which seem immature to peers.
May have difficulty in school Fitness classes and have an awkward “gait” when running.
May have difficulty playing sports, in group games, or being on a team.
Difficulty intuiting rules of games, especially those with social context.

Although the following are not typically discussed, and can exist in children who do not have Autism, some children with Autism Spectrum Disorders:

Are picky about food textures.  May refuse solid food or foods that touch each other.
Limit diet to only a few foods.
Are picky about clothing, preferring cotton, no socks, and other soft or “comfortable” clothing
Show aversion to touch/hugs, or seek intense pressure.  May squeeze between couch cushions or press items onto self.
Display fine or gross motor delays or hypotonia (low muscle tone).
Have chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Have previous diagnoses of “developmental delay” or “speech delay.”

If you checked two or more starred “Red Flag” items, or completing this checklist has made you concerned about your child’s behavior, take your completed checklist to a qualified healthcare professional for an Autism Spectrum Disorder assessment.  See more information under “Concerned About Your Child?” below.

Variations in Symptoms

Onset and recognition of Autism symptoms (and those of PDD and Asperger Syndrome) vary widely.  Some children seem different from birth, others regress (lose speech and other skills) around 18 months, and still others have mild or subtle symptoms which are not recognized until grade school or later.  A professional can help you sort out your concerns and determine whether your child really has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Videotapes of Children With Symptoms

Watching videotape clips of young children with Autism compared to young children developing typically can help parents decide whether there may be a concern.  Click for a link to the ASD Video Glossary at the website.  This link will take you out of this website, however.

Concerned About Your Child?

If you believe that your child may have an undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, click for information concerning Autism Assessment and Diagnosis (for Autism, PDD, or Asperger Syndrome).

If you have a child with autism symptoms in Spokane, Washington State, Year For Change offers additional services for children and families.  Click for more information on a Therapy Goals Assessment and/or Treatment and Therapy.

Need more help?  Call  (509) 448-1506 or Click to Email 

Deborah Skalabrin, MSW, LICSW

701 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 15
Spokane, WA  99204
(509) 448-1506 - Phone
(509) 624-7500 - FAX

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