Finding Out If Your Child Has Autism: Diagnosing Autism in Toddlers

It’s hard to imagine that we live in a world where autism rates are on the rise, and no one knows why. If you have a toddler, there is a good chance that they may be autistic. Most people are not aware that toddlers can be diagnosed with Autism as young as 18 months old.

There are various tell-tale signs to look for, and if your toddler shows any of them, you should consult a therapist or physician right away to see what they think. This article will go over some of the most common signs, so you know how to tell if your toddler has Autism.


Sensory sensitivities

If your toddler is extremely sensitive to touch, then they might be autistic. A typical toddler loves to be held and cuddled, but a child with Autism may hate it.

Many Autistic toddlers will also become upset if their hair is brushed or feel uncomfortable in specific clothing such as underwear. Some toddlers with Autism may even go so far as to swat away anyone who tries touching or hugging them when they do not want it.

Repetitive behavior

Children with Autism often display repetitive behaviors like rocking back and forth, flapping their hands repeatedly (a motion known as hand-flapping), biting their nails, and some may even spin in circles or twirl objects.

Some of these behaviors can be seen as cute when they are infants, but if it continues into toddlerhood, you should get checked out by a doctor to see what is going on. A typical toddler will engage in repetitive behaviors like this, but they are usually temporary and only last for a few weeks.

Delayed speech

Autistic toddlers may not start talking until later than other children their age. On average, a typical toddler will start talking at around one year old and continue to develop their language skills as they age.

Many children with Autism, however, may not speak until much later than this. If your toddler is above two years of age and does not have any words or phrases, you should get them checked out by a physician just in case since it could be an early sign of Autism.

Constantly lining up toys

Another way that therapists check for signs of Autism is through playtime sessions where the therapist gives the child various items such as blocks or balls. They then observe how the child plays with these objects because some toddlers on the spectrum are very particular about how things are lined up, stacked, etc.

These children can spend hours lining up objects just so, and if they cannot do this activity, they become agitated. If you see your toddler doing things like this regularly, it may indicate Autism because typically, children will play with toys however they want, even if the items are not lined up neatly at first.

Lack of eye contact

Eye contact is essential for social development in toddlers since it helps them bond with family members and learns how to read facial expressions properly. A toddler with Autism may have trouble looking directly into another person’s eyes when talking or playing with them, making interactions difficult at times.

Many autistic kids tend to look away from their parents instead of focusing on other people or not as important things. A typical toddler will naturally look at their parents when they talk or play, and if yours does not, you should consult a doctor to be sure.

Behavioral regression

A child with Autism may reach developmental milestones such as walking or climbing stairs. At the same time, other children do. But once the toddler has mastered these skills, they will lose them after a short while. If your toddler has been crawling for several months and can build up speed by scooting across carpets, then suddenly becomes unable to move around very fast all of a sudden without falling constantly, that could be an indication of Autism.

Typically toddlers continue progressing in these types of behaviors until much later on in life. Many autistic kids will regress in certain behaviors for no apparent reason, but it could be because sensory issues are causing them pain, so they stop doing things like crawling.

A lack of pretend play

Pretend play is an everyday activity for toddlers because it helps develop their imagination and creativity from an early age. Children with Autism, however, may not engage in this kind of play very often, if at all, which can be another sign that something might be wrong developmentally speaking.

Some children on the spectrum will prefer to line up items or listen to music instead, while others even do both simultaneously without much regard for other people around them.

Sensitivity to certain sounds

Certain noises such as loud banging or screeching can cause autistic kids severe discomfort, so they try and avoid these types of things whenever possible. Autistic children also tend to overreact when hearing household objects like vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, or even the doorbell.

Sensitivity to sounds is a vital sign of Autism, so if you notice your child reacts very strongly when hearing certain noises, it might indicate that they have autism spectrum disorder.

Not interested in pretend play

Almost every child loves to pretend that they have superpowers or play with action figures. A child on the spectrum will often not be interested in these things because their minds tend to work more logically than most children do.

They also may become too obsessed with particular objects such as spinning wheels, knobs, buttons, etc., which means it is time to get them checked out by a doctor immediately so you can find out what is going on.

These are just a few well-known examples of Autism signs in toddlers. And that’s according to many studies done by researchers who specialize in childhood development issues. Going over the above list of symptoms with your child’s doctor can help you confirm whether or not they have autism spectrum disorder.

Talk to them as soon as possible so that you can provide early intervention for any problems associated with this condition. If left untreated, autistic kids often face many challenges later on down the road when it comes time to attend school and develop meaningful relationships throughout life because they cannot communicate effectively due to their developmental delay.

If it turns out that your toddler does indeed have Autism, then there are many excellent therapies and programs available to help them learn how to function in society with this condition.

Journal of Royal Society of Medicine. (October 2000). Autism in Toddler Checklist.
HealthyChildren (2021). Early Signs of Autism.

Last Updated on September 29, 2021