Early signs and symptoms of ASD — The what & how

What is Autism?

  1. Difficulty in social interaction
  2. Difficulty in verbal & nonverbal communication &
  3. Repetitive/restricted patterns of thoughts & behavior.

What is ASD ?

Why is it important to identify the signs in children with ASD ?

Since kids under ASD appear like their normal peers, its likely that they remain undiagnosed until a certain age when the features are hard to ignore. This often hampers their progression as they have lost some precious years due to lack of awareness regarding their child’s condition.

Incidence of ASD

Although the exact causes of autism have not been very clear yet, it is accepted that there are abnormalities in the brain structure & function causing disruption in the normal processing of various sensory inputs. The abnormalities might be due to the following causes:-

  • having an immediate family member with autism.
  • genetic mutations.
  • fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders.
  • being born to older parents.
  • low birth weight.
  • metabolic imbalances.
  • exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins.
  • a history of viral infections
  • The rate of prevalence of autism is more these days due to excessive exposure to mobiles (electromagnetic waves)

Red flag signs for autism ( seen in 6-12 months babies)

  1. Rarely smiles when approached by caregivers
  2. Rarely tries to imitate sounds and movements others make, such as smiling and laughing, during simple social exchanges
  3. Delayed or infrequent babbling
  4. Does not respond to his or her name with increasing consistency from 6–12 months
  5. Does not gesture to communicate by 10 months
  6. Poor eye contact
  7. Seeks your attention infrequently
  8. Repeatedly stiffens arms, hands, legs or displays unusual body movements such as rotating the hands on the wrists, uncommon postures, or other repetitive behaviors
  9. Does not reach up toward you when you reach to pick him or her up
  10. Delays in motor development, including delayed rolling over, pushing up, and crawling.

Parents complaints / Signs & symptoms observed by parents:-

* Social communication and interaction

  • Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
  • Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world
  • Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression
  • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences
  • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going, or only starts one to make requests or label items
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  • Repeats words or phrases verbally, but doesn’t understand how to use them in daily life while interacting with someone.
  • Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions
  • Doesn’t express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Can be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • Lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
  • Doesn’t point at object to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over .
  • Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive
  • Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice.

* Patterns of behavior

  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
  • Produces repetitive and meaningless sounds like humming, squealing, throat clearing,etc.
  • Performs activities that could cause self-harm, such as biting or head-banging
  • Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
  • Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes.
  • Is fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the overall purpose or function of the object
  • Is unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature
  • Doesn’t engage in imitative or make-believe play
  • Fixates on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
  • Has specific food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or refusing foods

The Positive side ( abilities of children with ASD)

  • High IQ level
  • Learning to read at a very early age (known as hyperlexia).
  • Memorising and learning information
  • Exceptionally strong visual memory( Once they see something, they remember it in precise details).
  • Logical thinking ability.
  • May excel (if able) in academic areas such as science, engineering and mathematics as they are technical and logical subjects that do not heavily rely on social interaction.
  • Having an extraordinarily good memory (being able to remember facts for a long period of time).
  • Being precise and detail orientated.
  • Having an excellent sense of direction.
  • Be very punctual.
  • Strong adherence to rules.
  • Able to concentrate for long periods of time when motivated.
  • A drive for perfection and order.
  • Productive in a single context ( some might be exceptionally talented in art or music or any sports )


Whom to approach after a child is diagnosed to be under ASD

  1. Occupational therapist
  2. Speech therapist
  3. Special educator
  4. Psychologist
  5. Dietician

Role of these professionals in the intervention

Kids improvements depends on:-

  • Therapy is based on the child’s interest and active participation. Knowing when to push forward and stop and try another day.

About the writer :-



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Abhipsa Parida

Abhipsa Parida


My name is Abhipsa Parida. I am an occupational therapist and I have been handling kids with special needs since 6 years. I run my own clinic in Bhubaneswar