What are the signs of autism in infants?

Autism has become a very common disorder among children. This has made many new mothers concerned, looking for signs and indications to ensure their newborn doesn’t have autism. When do autism symptoms appear in a child? What are the signs of autism in infants? And what are the best available treatments for autism? Keep reading to learn the answers.

Published on:Aug 25th 2023 |Updated on:Apr 10th 2024
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What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder affecting children's cognitive, social, and communication skills. Autism is a spectrum of conditions ranging from mild to severe. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control statistics indicate that autism affects one in every 36 children.


Doctors are still unable to pinpoint a specific cause of autism. However, they've concluded that genetic and environmental factors may increase the likelihood of this disorder. Among these factors are:

  • Having a sibling with the same condition.
  • Premature birth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Certain genetic diseases.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities.
  • Advanced maternal age.

When do autism symptoms appear in a child?

Autism spectrum disorder symptoms typically appear between the ages of one and two. However, experts note that symptoms can also manifest in infants at an even earlier age, possibly as early as nine months. Recent studies on autism have shown that signs of autism in infants can be detected as early as two months of age.

Signs of Autism in Babies

Diagnosing autism and recognizing its symptoms are among the most challenging aspects of this disorder. This is due to the wide variability in symptom nature and onset. An infant's developmental milestones can vary from one child to another, even without any health or cognitive issues. However, certain signs might indicate that an infant has autism. Some of the most notable include:

Lack of Eye Contact and Joint Attention

If your child doesn't look into your eyes when you're holding him or her, or when hearing your voice, or if they don't focus on something you're having or looking at, like a toy or a baby bottle, this might indicate a potential developmental issue that requires further tests and evaluations. A study published in 2016 found that infants can establish eye contact as early as nine months of age. However, this ability to communicate and engage may be challenging for children with autism.

Not responding

Child health experts confirm infants can respond and turn their heads when hearing their name as early as six months. A delay in this ability after nine months of birth may indicate that the child is on the autism spectrum.

Difficulty in non-verbal communication

According to pediatricians and cognitive psychology experts, infants should be able to mimic movements and sounds by nine months. For example, they might repeat simple sounds like "mama" or "bada," wave, and point to things. This is something children on the autism spectrum often struggle with.

Lack of facial expressions

A child can typically smile and frown by the age of four months. They should also be able to recognize and respond to the facial expressions of the person they're interacting with. The absence of this recognition, responding to facial expressions inappropriately, and not smiling or frowning before the age of one could be a sign of autism in infants.

Language development delay

A child with no developmental issues is expected to be able to say at least one word and somewhat mimic others' speech. However, an inability to speak can indicate a developmental problem. Studies have shown that 40% of children with autism are non-verbal.

Regression of skills

If an infant loses a skill they had previously acquired, such as speaking or smiling, or any other social skills, it could indicate a possibility of being on the autism spectrum.

Signs of autism in two-month-old infants

Consult with a pediatrician if your two-month-old infant is unable to:

  • Turn his or her head upon hearing a loud noise.
  • Track moving objects with their eyes.
  • Put their hands in their mouth.
  • Lift their head when lying on their stomach.

Signs of autism in four-month-old infants

  • Consult with a pediatrician if your four-month-old infant is unable to:
  • Control his or her head.
  • Produce sounds.
  • Place objects in their mouth.
  • Push their legs down when held above a hard surface.
  • Move their eyes in all directions.

Autism Symptoms in Six-Month-Old Infants

  • Consult with a pediatrician if your six-month-old baby is unable to:
  • Attempt to grasp objects.
  • Show feelings towards their parents.
  • Respond to surrounding sounds.
  • Produce vowel sounds.
  • Smile and laugh.

Autism Symptoms in Nine-Month-Old Infants

By this age, a child without any disorders should be able to:

  • Look in the direction you point.
  • Respond when their name is called.
  • Make sounds resembling speech.
  • Recognize familiar people.
  • Sit without support.
  • Standing with support.
  • Transfer a toy from one hand to the other.

Autism Signs in One-Year-Old Children

Speak to your pediatrician if your one-year-old child is unable to:

  • Point to objects.
  • Make hand movements or nod their head.
  • Pronounce simple words like "bye" or "mama."
  • Cuddle.
  • Stand with support.

Autism Treatment

Autism treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and where the child falls on the autism spectrum. The most common treatment methods are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Joint attention therapy.
  • Behavior management therapies.
  • Social skills training.
  • Speech therapy.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Occupational therapy.
  • Certain medications.
  • Early educational interventions.
  • Dietary treatments.

Although there is no definitive cure for this disorder, numerous studies have shown that early intervention is one of the most effective ways to reduce the severity of autism symptoms successfully. Therefore, do not overlook any symptoms in your child and consult with a pediatrician if you feel your child needs further evaluation.


Also read Children’s intelligence: can you make your kids smarter?

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