Signs of Autism (Early Autism Signs & Markers) - Acorn Health

July 14, 2021

Signs of Autism

Understand the most common red flags of autism and what to do next 

Do you have concerns about your child’s development? As your toddler develops new skills, it can be difficult to decipher what is considered normal development and when to seek professional guidance. Typically, initial signs of autism can be present between 2 and 3 years old, but some children can be diagnosed as early as 18 months old. Understanding common signs and characteristics of autism can help parents and caregivers lead their child toward a fulfilling and independent life by providing intervention as soon as possible. 

What Is Autism? 

Over the last decade, autism has become more widely known and understood between parents and medical professionals. Current estimates show that autism affects 1 in 54 children. It’s defined as a neurodevelopment disorder characterized by social, cognitive and communication deficits. For caregivers, the disorder can be very confusing and difficult to navigate since everyone’s experiences can vary so widely. It is a lifelong spectrum disorder; meaning individuals with autism can have very different challenges and strengths. What we do know is that early intervention is incredibly important, and leads to positive outcomes and earlier progress for children and their families. 

It can help to understand what the earliest signs and markers of autism include. The lists below are meant to illustrate some of these symptoms, but not necessarily all of them. If you believe your child is presenting some of these signs, reach out to your pediatrician with questions. 


  • Not responding to their name 
  • No speech or delayed speech 
  • Reversing pronouns 
  • Stopped saying words they used to say 
  • Frequently repeating words or phrases they’ve overheard 


  • Not playing pretend 
  • Not pointing at objects 
  • Avoiding eye contact 
  • Exhibiting symptoms of extreme anxiety 
  • Obsessive interests 
  • Impulsivity or hyperactivity 
  • Developed rituals like lining objects up or organizing items 


  • Hand flapping or spinning in circles  
  • Obsessive sensory interests such as sniffing objects or materials 
  • Displaying strong, disruptive reactions to loud noises 
  • Poor coordination 
  • Eating difficulties or extremely picky eating 

Seeking Screening 

If you are a concerned parent, there are many resources available to provide you with answers. Typically, screening tools can be used between 16 and 30 months old, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children receive autism screening between 18 and 24 months of age. Local diagnostic resources, financial options, counseling, scholarships and therapy services are typically available for families. Reach out to your local or state department of health to see what is available.    

Learn More

Acorn Health is proud to be a trusted resource for families and caregivers affected by autism. Additionally, there are helpful online resources we recommend that you read through to gain more knowledge about the complex diagnosis of autism: 

Next Steps 

Once you have received an autism diagnosis, we recommend getting an assessment for ABA therapy as soon as possible to learn how ABA can benefit your child. Learn more about the value of early intervention ABA therapy here. Additionally, evaluations by a speech therapist and an occupational therapist can be helpful for some children to address communication challenges and physical challenges they may be experiencing. Here at Acorn Health, we collaborate with many other providers and therapists in the treatment of children with autism.  

To begin the process of scheduling ABA services, visit