General cues to look out for which may indicate the need for a formal assessment, include the following:
- Little awareness of other people.
- Poor imaginative play (e.g. pretending that a block is a car or plane).
- Speech and language development is deviant, delayed or absent.
- Lack of response to verbal input (e.g. not responding to his/her name being called).
- Distress resulting form changes in environment or routine.
- Repetitive play or activity.
- Self-stimulatory behaviours (e.g. rocking, flapping hands, spinning etc.).
- Inappropriate attachment to objects.
- Tantrums or meltdowns without obvious (to us) causes.
- Sudden laughing or crying for no apparent reason.
- Difficulties in interacting with others.
- Little or no eye contact.
- No sense of danger.
- Self-injurious behaviours.
- Appears to prefer playing alone.
- Dulled or heightened sensory perception (sense of sight, smell, touch, taste, etc.).
- Uneven gross/fine motor skills.
- Abnormal sleeping patterns.
Warning signs of autism in early childhood:
Parents should ask their child’s family doctor for referral to a developmental paediatrician for assessment if there are concerns with any of the following:
Communication Red Flags:
- No babbling by 11 months of age
- No simple gestures by 12 months (e.g. waving bye-bye)
- No single words by 16 months
- No 2-word phrases by 24 months (noun + verb, e.g. “baby sleeping”)
- No response when name is called, causing concern about hearing
- Loss of any language or social skills at ANY age (i.e. regression)
Behaviour Red Flags:
- Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hands
- Oversensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights
- Lack of interest in toys or plays with them in unusual ways (e.g. lining up or opening and closing parts instead of playing with the toy as a whole)
- Compulsions or rituals (has to perform activities in special way or certain sequence; prone to tantrums if ritual is interrupted)
- Preoccupations with unusual interests such as light switches, doors, fans, wheels
- Unusual fears (e.g. of the colour green)
Social Red Flags:
- Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people
- Does not play peek-a-boo
- Does not point to show things he/she is interested in or follow your point
- More interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces
- Prefers to play alone
- Does not make attempts to get parents’ attention
- Seems to be in “his/her own world”
- Does not respond to parents attempts to play, even if relaxed
- Avoids or ignores other children when they approach