What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has a wide range of symptoms. Because the symptoms of one person can be vastly different from another, it can be difficult for caregivers to know if they should seek out a professional opinion. The following information below may help you determine if your learner is on the spectrum and if you should get your learner screened. The Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you should contact your pediatrician if your child displays the following behaviors for their age. 

Signs of Autism By Age


  • Does not respond to loud sounds
  • Does not visually track objects as they move
  • Does not smile at people
  • Does not bring hands to mouth
  • Cannot hold head up when pushing up from lying on stomach


  • Does not visually track objects as he or she moves
  • Does not smile at people
  • Cannot hold head steady
  • Does not coo or make sounds
  • Does not bring things to mouth
  • Does not push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface
  • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions


  • Does not try to get things that are in reach
  • Shows no affection for caregivers
  • Does not respond to sounds around him
  • Has difficulty getting things to mouth
  • Does not make vowel sounds (“ah”, “eh”, “oh”)
  • Does not roll over in either direction
  • Does not laugh or make squealing sounds
  • Seems very stiff, with tight muscles, or seems very floppy, like a rag doll


  • Does not bear weight on legs with support
  • Does not sit with help
  • Does not babble (“mama”, “baba”, “dada”)
  • Does not play any games involving back-and-forth play
  • Does not respond to his or her own name
  • Does not seem to recognize familiar people
  • Does not look where you point
  • Does not transfer toys from one hand to the other


  • Does not crawl
  • Cannot stand when supported
  • Does not search for things that he or she sees you hide
  • Does not say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Does not learn gestures like waving or shaking head
  • Does not point to things
  • Loses skills he or she once had


  • Does not point to show things to others
  • Cannot walk
  • Does not know what familiar things are for
  • Does not copy others
  • Does not gain new words
  • Does not have at least 6 words
  • Does not notice or mind when a caregiver leaves or returns
  • Loses skills he or she once had


  • Does not use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”)
  • Does not know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, or spoon
  • Does not copy actions and words
  • Does not follow simple instructions
  • Does not walk steadily
  • Loses skills he or she once had


  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Cannot work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Does not speak in sentences
  • Does not understand simple instructions
  • Does not play pretend or make-believe
  • Does not want to play with other children or with toys
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Loses skills he or she once had


  • Cannot jump in place
  • Has trouble scribbling
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Ignores other children
  • Does not respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Cannot retell a favorite story
  • Does not follow 3-part commands
  • Does not understand “same” and “different”
  • Does not use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Speaks unclearly
  • Loses skills he or she once had


  • Does not show a wide range of emotions
  • Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad)
  • Unusually withdrawn and not active
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Does not respond to people, or responds only superficially
  • Cannot tell what is real from make-believe
  • Does not play a variety of games and activities
  • Cannot give first and last name
  • Does not use plurals or past tense properly
  • Does not talk about daily activities or experiences
  • Does not draw pictures
  • Cannot brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
  • Loses skills he or she once had

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