Red Flags – Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders

By Dr. Rebecca Landa


These behaviors may not indicate an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Screening by a developmental specialist may be warranted.

6-12 Month-Olds

  • Infrequent or no babbling
  • Lack of eye contact or smile
  • No interest in looking at faces
  • Unusual, high-pitched squeals

9-24 Month-Olds

  • ANY signs of regression
  • Infrequent response to social interactions
  • Decreased eye contact
  • Limited facial expressions
  • Inconsistent response to name (in absence of hearing loss)
  • No words by 16 months or no 2-word phrases by 24 months
  • Uses other person’s hand as a tool
  • Limited use of gestures (especially pointing)
  • Doesn’t easily learn simple new interactive routines
  • Echoing what others say without regular spontaneous speech
  • Overly attached to unusual objects
  • Repetitive or odd play or other behavior
  • Odd sensory interests (fans, lights, spinning)
  • Insistence on sameness; resistance to change

Prepared by Dr. Rebecca Landa, Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and the REACH Research Program at Kennedy Krieger Institute. She is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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