Early intervention is important for children with autism, a developmental disorder that inhibits socialization. So be on the lookout for warning signs.

To complete this How-To you will need:

Knowledge of developmental milestones
Careful attention to your baby’s behavior
A hearing test for your child

Warning: Do not assume that if your baby exhibits behaviors associated with autism, they necessarily have the disorder. Observe them carefully and bring any concerns to a doctor.

Step 1: Pay attention to babbling

Pay attention to when your baby begins to babble. They should start at around five months old.

Step 2: Monitor eye contact

Begin monitoring eye contact at around six to nine months, when infants generally start smiling in response to their parents’ grins. Babies with autism tend to avoid looking at their parents.

Step 3: Try some games

If your baby makes a sound, make one back and see if they reciprocate. Babies with autism usually do not take part in this verbal turn taking, nor do they participate in peek-a-boo.

Step 4: Try to get their attention

Note whether your baby responds to their name: They should begin to do so starting around 10 months. Babies with autism often ignore people trying to get their attention and don’t solicit anyone else’s attention.

Tip: If your baby ignores you when you call their name, get their ears checked. They might have a hearing impairment.

Step 5: Check for 12-month milestones

Note their behavior at around 12 months. By this point, most babies are pointing, waving, grasping objects, and attempting to speak.

Step 6: Gauge their sensitivity

Gauge your baby’s sensitivity to sound and touch. Many children with autism are unusually sensitive to loud noises and hate being cuddled or touched—yet they sometimes under-react to pain.

Step 7: Study their focus

Note their focus: Do they tend to fixate on a favorite object, or part of an object, to the exclusion of other people, including other toddlers?

Step 8: Notice repetition

Look for repetitive movements associated with autism, such as rocking back and forth, hand flapping, and twirling.

Step 9: Notice rigidity

See how set in their ways they are. Children with autism often exhibit strong resistance to changes in their routine.

Step 10: Count their words

Keep track of their vocabulary. At 18 months, most babies can say about a dozen words, and by the two-year mark, they are usually initiating two-word phrases.

Step 11: Don’t ignore regression

Some children with autism seem to develop normally until 18 to 24 months, then stop or regress in speech and other growth. Consult your pediatrician if your child regresses or if they exhibit any of the behaviors previously discussed.

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