Early Signs of Autism in Babies and Toddlers


I often get messages asking me questions… How did you know he had autism? What was he doing that worried you? What were the early signs of autism when he was a baby?

I was part of an online mom group who all had babies born in the Spring of 2013. Our babies were close in age so it was fun to follow everyone’s development. Every Sunday we had a “Brag Thread” in which every mom commented something new their children started doing that week. Week after week I read that thread without having anything to contribute. At first I wasn’t too worried because all children develop at their own pace and also because Charlie was exposed to two languages in the home (French and English), which we used to excuse his slow progress with speech.

Early Signs of Autism

Around 20 months in I started questioning if something more was going on. Not only Charlie wasn’t progressing but he was regressing, and that was the biggest red flag. He had a dozen of words and he lost them starting around 18 months. So, a friend of mine recommended we spend about 15 minutes taking the M-CHAT questionnaire, an autism screening tool for children between 15 months and 36 that you can easily take online. The M-CHAT is scored from 0 to 20, with each point scored equalling a warning sign for autism. Scores from 0-2 are low risk, 3-7 medium risk, and 8-20 are high risk. Charlie scored 18 out 20. We were referred to a developmental pediatrician who confirmed our worries. At 22 months, Charlie was diagnosed with ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder.

These are the warning signs of autism we noticed between 18 months and 22 months. Keep in mind that all children are different, and all children on the autism spectrum are unique. There’s a saying about just this that goes, if you know one child with autism, well, you know one child with autism.

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Early Signs of Autism Checklist


  • Delayed Speech
  • Speech Regression
  • Does not answer to his name
  • Does not greet us, his parents, when we come home
  • Can not follow directions
  • Cannot communicate his needs


  • Ignores other children
  • Likes to be alone
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Is in his own world
  • Sometimes gets scared or bothered for no apparent reason and covers his eyes or ears


  • Lines up his toys
  • Can occupy himself for extended periods of time
  • Focuses on details of his toys and misses their broader purpose (just spins the wheel on a car)
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Strange sleep habits (sleeps on floor, etc…)
  • Gets frustrated easily
  • Has obsessive interests (balls, wheels, light switches)
  • Play with toys the exact same way for long periods of time (ie: pouring water from one cup to another)
  • Likes routines
  • Gets “stuck” on things and can’t move to other activities


  • Hand flapping
  • Covers his eyes/ears when bothered by something
  • Picky eating
  • Stopped nursing at 2 months and always had a bad latch
  • Very attached to his silk pillow and security blanket
  • Sensitive to texture, didn’t like walking on the grass (cannot sleep without his silk pillow case)
  • Throws violent temper tantrums
  • Is very independent for his age

If you have concerns about your child development, here are a few easy things you can do:

1. Take the M-CHAT online
2. Take the ASQ online
3. Bring a copy of the results to your pediatrician
4. Call Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) in your state, it’s a mostly/sometimes free service for children up to 3 years old. Google Early Childhood Intervention + (your state)

signs autism

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  • Reply
    2017-02-21 at 4:14 AM

    Hi, I absolutely love your feed, your little boy is one of the most beautiful little boys I have ever seen. I wanted to write to you because I also have a little boy in my life who is very special. I have been able to see significant improvements in his speaking, he actually not only spoke, but told me he loved me. He also reset it the entire Pledge of Allegiance. He is progressing quickly, and I would love to share with you a little bit of what I have done. While reading this my heart just broke. I send you prayers love and peace. And look forward to speaking with you.
    P.S your contact form under contact is not found. I tried to send this to you there ???❤

    • Reply
      The Autism Cafe
      2017-02-21 at 4:42 AM

      Hi, thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. I fixed the “Contact Us” form, you can contact me there. Looking forward to hear from you!

  • Reply
    2017-02-21 at 5:54 AM

    MERCI pour ces informations précieuses. Je partage pour d’autres jeunes mamans

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