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Signs of Autism?

Updated: Mar 2

Red Flags and What You Can Do


First of all, let me say, I hear you. I know how scary it is to have a child who may be showing signs of developmental delays. I also know how quickly your Google searches can lead you to an overwhelming plethora of "RED FLAGS" for things far scarier than a simple language delay like, Autism.



So let's talk about some of the red flags that might warrant a speech-language evaluation or even a neurological assessment. But first let me start by reminding you of my top 8 key points when beginning this type of journey...


Don't Forget that...

  1. your child is uniquely and wonderfully perfect!

  2. your child has his own learning style, pace, interests, gifts, and strengths!

  3. every child learns differently, no matter what age-level checklists might portray.

  4. your child has a unique sensory profile (responses to sensory input like smells, sights, sounds, touch) that can tell us a lot about his needs and how he learns.

  5. every single child has the potential to LEARN.

  6. your child might be DIFFERENT, but that doesn't mean LESS!

  7. we all have unique personality traits that make us special.

  8. if we focus on your child's strengths, we can teach him the way he learns best.

Now let's look at some of the red flags you might be seeing in your child:


Red Flags

  1. Limited or no babbling by age 9 months

  2. No first words by 15 months

  3. No word combinations by 24 months

  4. Little interest in communicating with others

  5. Failure to respond to own name by 12 months

  6. A sudden loss of speech and language skills

  7. Avoidance of eye contact

  8. Repeats words/phrases repetitively

  9. Obsessive interests

  10. No pretend play by 18 months

  11. No pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months

  12. Prefers to play alone

  13. Not easily comforted when distressed

Next Steps


Now you ask, "what should I do if I'm seeing these red flags?"

You have a few options. First you can check in with your pediatrician for a referral to a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation. Your doctor should be able to help guide you in seeking out an autism diagnosis if he/she is seeing signs as a concern. In this case, he may recommend a neurological or neurological-psychological evaluation to rule out autism. But, I'd suggest starting with speech therapy, as many of the above "red flags" can be addressed in speech therapy sessions. What you want to be careful of, is jumping right to a diagnosis of autism for a few reasons. Many neuro-psychologists hand out an autism diagnosis too quickly, and base their findings on a very short office visit, while relying on a simple checklist. In my opinion, a true diagnosis can only be given after multiple visits, once really getting to know your child in multiple scenarios, settings and situations. Someone like a speech-pathologist is highly qualified to be able to address the language-related red flags, and help to guide you in deciding whether or not you should seek out a neuropsychologist's opinion. An occupational therapist is also a great option, as they can target sensory and motor issues that are also often on the list of "red flags" for autism.




Another reason to start with speech and occupational therapy before seeking out an autism diagnosis, is because of the other diagnoses that are often mistaken for autism. For example, sensory processing disorder can be characterized by some of the same behaviors often pointing to autism (overstimulation, sensory-related melt downs, difficulty with self-regulation, difficulty attending to tasks, picky eating, difficulty tolerating change, adverse reactions to textures of clothing, foods, and other materials like sand). Autistic children often have sensory processing difficulties, but some children may have sensory-processing disorder but not necessarily autism as well. The two diagnoses do not always go hand in hand. A speech-language diagnosis known as Apraxia of Speech, can be another example. AOS results in little to no consistent speech development due to difficulty with motor planning of the movements needed to coordinate speech productions. These children can show increased frustration communicating, difficulty imitating words, and lack of interest in communicating with others. Sound familiar?


In summary, the red flags you might be seeing are likely enough to warrant you seeking out advice from a speech-language pathologist. It never hurts to get your child personalized attention to help him learn to speak. It also does not hurt for you to get some support and education. The guidance you'd receive would be much more helpful than searching Google, and becoming overwhelmed by the direction to which those red flags point.


But overall, please remember the 8 points I listed at the beginning of this post:

  1. your child is uniquely and wonderfully perfect!

  2. your child has his own learning style, pace, interests, gifts, and strengths!

  3. every child learns differently, no matter what age-level checklists might portray.

  4. your child has a unique sensory profile (responses to sensory input like smells, sights, sounds, touch) that can tell us a lot about his needs and how he learns.

  5. every single child has the potential to LEARN.

  6. your child might be DIFFERENT, but that doesn't mean LESS!

  7. we all have unique personality traits that make us special.

  8. if we focus on your child's strengths, we can teach him the way he learns best.


I'd love to support you on your journey. Please reach out if you'd like some guidance and are seeing some red flags. There are a lot of simple home-based techniques you can put into practice immediately! You don't have to wait for any diagnosis to support your child's learning.


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