As your child develops, you will often look for specific benchmark traits that show your child is progressing normally. These traits include responding to their name, reacting to facial expressions, babbling, or imitating others.
Parents are usually quite aware of how their child is growing in relation to other children.
Pediatricians also look for specific developmental traits with each of their patients. When your pediatrician begins to evaluate if a child is showing early signs of autism, they will analyze how your child is developing compared to typical development.
For example, at six months, a child should be able to copy sounds, enjoy playing with others, respond to their name, and also respond to the emotions of others.
By twelve months, a child should begin to use simple gestures, repeat and say small words such as “mama” or “dada,” play simple games and respond to verbal requests (CDC, 2019). These social and communication milestones are evaluated by a pediatrician when determining if a child could be showing signs of autism.
There are many early signs of autism that parents should be aware of when monitoring their children. These include avoiding eye contact, having little interest in interaction with caregivers or peers, limited displays of language, distress from changes in routine, lack of peer imitation skills, and loss of previously gained skills (AAP, 2019).
If you notice some of these traits, get your child evaluated for autism by a pediatrician soon.
In some cases, parents will disagree with their pediatrician regarding a potential diagnosis of autism. If there is a disagreement, it is advisable to seek a second opinion of another specialist. There could also be cases where a child’s primary care provider decides to refer the child to seek an assessment from a specialist.
In any case, seeking a second opinion or seeking further information could be advisable for everyone.
While a parent will typically monitor for real-world development, a pediatrician will conduct a developmental screening, typically at 9 months, 18 months and 30 months (CDC, 2019).
Additionally, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children be evaluated for autism at ages 18 and 24 months (AAP, 2019).
This screening process will consist of a series of questions to determine where the child is at. Assessments that could be used include Autism Diagnosis Interview (AID – R), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS – G), Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), or Gilliam Autism Rating Scale – 2nd edition (GARS – 2).
CDC. (n.d.). Early Warning Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder. cdc.gov.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February 11). Screening and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for Healthcare Providers.