Red Flags

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