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Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be seen when your child is still a baby. It most often appears before 3 years old (mainly from 18 to 24 months). The severity of symptoms is different for each child. Children with ASD may show a combination of behaviors. ASD is a lifelong condition.

Children grow and change rapidly at this early stage. A child may also regress from previous achievements or they may not progress at all. Your child may have problems achieving normal social and developmental milestones.

Differences may be seen in:

  • Social skills
  • Communication
  • Repetitive behaviors or unusual activities
  • Processing sensory information

These differences may be seen in a wide range of behaviors such as:

  • Not making eye contact
  • Not responding to their name
  • Not imitating others
  • Little or no speaking
  • Wants to play alone
  • Little interaction or listening to others
  • Aggression
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tantrums—can be with little or no prodding
  • Using language in unusual ways
  • Repetitive behaviors—may spend hours with a single activity over and over again such as rocking or flapping a hand
  • May stare at certain objects for a long time
  • Overreact to small changes in their environment
  • Sensitivity to sound, smell, taste, sights, and touch
  • Feeling pain from a light touch, but ignoring more severe pain
  • Experiencing sounds as colors, and touches as sounds

Trust what you feel. Call your child's doctor if you have any worries about their development. Children and their families may benefit from early, intense intevention.


Autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated March 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Johnson CP, Myers SM, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities. Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1183-1215.

Signs and symptoms. Autism Society website. Available at: Accessed August 19, 2019.

Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: April 26, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

What are the early signs of autism? Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Updated September 4, 2015. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 8/19/2019