Although autism spectrum disorders are rooted in early brain development, the average age most children are diagnosed is 4 1⁄2. Georgina Peacock, MD, a developmental behavioral pediatrician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges new parents to start tracking milestones from birth—if there’s a developmental delay, you’ll be able to seek help that much sooner.
What to look for:
- Doesn’t react to loud sounds by 2 months.
- Doesn’t respond to nearby sounds by 6 months.
- Doesn’t respond to own name at 9 months.
- Has trouble moving eyes in any direction by 4 months.
- Doesn’t look where you point by 9 months.
- Doesn’t seem to recognize familiar people at 9 months.
- Doesn’t coo or make sounds by 4 months.
- Doesn’t start babbling by 9 months.
- Doesn’t use simple words by 12 to 18 months (about six words by 18 months).
- Doesn’t smile at people by 4 months.
- Seems overly floppy (like a rag doll) or stiff (tight muscles) at 6 months.
- Can’t move toys from one hand to the other by 9 months.
- Can’t stand with support at 12 months.
* Loss of motor or social skills at any age.
Note: If you notice any red flags, Peacock suggests talking to another caregiver (try daycare teachers or your partner) to find out if they’re also seeing those signs, then talk to your doctor.