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How to Tell if Your Child is Autistic

How to Tell if Your Child is Autistic

It’s difficult to say how you might feel when the suspicion starts to creep up that your son or daughter might have a disability. For some parents, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. For others, it’s actually a relief. However you feel about it, there’s no question that the stage between questioning whether your child is Autistic and getting a diagnosis is a big one.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects the way a person communicates and how they experience the world around them. The condition affects everybody differently, and people with Autism, just like people everywhere, have all sorts of individual personalities, sensitivities, preferences, and viewpoints. No one child is likely to display every symptom of Autism exactly as the textbook says. However, there are some general areas to watch out for. 

General Signs of Autism

Challenges with speech

  • Being a ‘late developer’ with talking
  • Learning little or no language at all
  • Or, learning speech early, but having difficulty understanding metaphors, turns of phrase or sarcasm
  • Echolalia: repeating particular sounds, words or phrases simply for the satisfaction of saying them over and over
  • Talking in pre-learned phrases rather than making up new sentences
  • An unusual intonation
  • Not using common non-verbal ways of communicating, such as shaking the head or pointing
  • Difficulty catching the rhythm of conversation: either leaving big pauses, drifting off, speaking in monologues or interrupting

Challenges with socializing

  • Limited eye contact
  • Not responding to efforts to engage them
  • No apparent instinct for being cuddled
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Having problems with personal space
  • Being solitary, preferring to play alone
  • Having trouble grasping basic forms of manners, like saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’
  • Difficulty grasping the idea of taking turns


Physical/sensory issues

  • ‘Stimming’. This is short for ‘self-stimulatory behavior’, and it means engaging in repetitive behaviors for comfort or relaxation.
  • Not liking to be physically close to others
  • Having unusual preferences about touching – for instance, being comforted by hard squeezes but agitated by gentle contact
  • Being highly stimulated by certain visual experiences like fans and wheels, or bright and flashing lights
  • Finding certain noises unbearable
  • Having easily irritated skin
  • Being unusually resistant to certain kinds of discomfort
  • Delayed motor skills
  • Being unusually clumsy
  • Adamantly resisting eating certain kinds of food
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Being late to develop ‘toileting’ skills 


  • Being anxious
  • Being ritualistic
  • Being obsessive
  • Being very uncomfortable with or uninterested in anything unfamiliar
  • Having particular difficulty regulating their emotions, being easily upset or overwhelmed
  • Tuning people out if they feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed or shy
  • Being reckless

Of course, your child won’t exactly fit the template; nobody does. But if enough of this is sounding familiar, it’s probably time to look into a diagnosis. Think of it this way: if your child does have autism, diagnosing it sooner is better for all of you, and if they don’t, then you might as well lay your worries to rest.

If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.

American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.


Dial (877) 762-0702 or email us at [email protected].


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