Cute aisan baby. Not smiling. Signs that your infant could have autism

Does my baby have autism? Infant behaviours that may predict ASD

The first year of a child’s life is normally a non-stop daily or weekly celebration of “firsts” – first smile, first crawl, first steps, first words…first full night’s sleep (with any luck). But what if your baby doesn’t seem to be reaching these milestones? Every child is different, and meets these milestones at different times, so when should parents start wondering if something else is going on?

Behavioural signs in infants between 6 and 12 months can predict ASD

A 2005 Canadian study published in the International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, with over 200 participants was the first to pinpoint specific behavioural signs in infants as young as 12 months that can predict, with remarkable accuracy, whether a child will develop autism.

Autism is one of the most prevalent disorders today, and while a bio marker was finally found last year to help with early diagnosis, it’s normally only 80% effective, and so far mostly being used on higher risk infants. Also it is found using an MRI, and wait times can be long. Most doctors instead must rely on parent observations, observing the child themselves, and using standardized tools like the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT). However these tools are made for children who are 18 months and older, a long time especially when early detection and intervention can help with many of the frustrations that develop from communication problems.

Because of the research done, a scale was developed to help doctors with early assessment in infants as young as 6 months (although they are considered far more accurate at 12 months of age) . The Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI) has been a fantastic new tool to help parents and doctors get an early diagnosis.

Signs that your baby may have autism

Most of these are markers that would show up between the 6 months to 1 year range. Before that, many of these may not show up at all. It is also important to know that any one of these traits on its own is not a diagnosis. If your child is showing a number of these traits over the 6 month period, it is always good to see a doctor for assessment. Early diagnosis and treatment can really make a difference in skills building later on. Again this list should not be considered a diagnosis, only used as a tool to start a conversation with your doctor who can then start a proper assessment process.

  1. No social smiling
    Typically a baby will reflexively smile back if you smile at them starting as early as the first month, but certainly by the age of 3 months. As a test you can try looking at your baby with a neutral face, and then break into a wide smile that you hold for a few seconds. You can try three or four times. A typically developing infant should smile back most if not every time.
  2. Lack of eye contact
    Most babies are born with an innate interest in the human face, particularly their parents and family.
  3. Not responding to their name
    Most infants will be responding to their name when you say it by 9 months at the latest.
  4. No social anticipation or Peek-A-Boo
    Neurologically typical children will lift their arms in anticipation of being picked up, or start laughing (or crying) in anticipation of games like Peek-a-boo. If your child seems not to be picking up on these traditional forms of play by 6-9 months, it is worth looking into.
  5. Poor visual tracking
    Take a brightly coloured toy and track it back and forth slowly in front of your baby. Does your child easily follow a brightly coloured toy with their eyes? Or do they seem to loose interest in it or disengage quickly?
  6. Lack of social babbling
    Typically babies love to practice babbling on the road to their first words. Babies with autism may be lacking verbal noises, be slow to verbalize, or suddenly stop verbalizing after a point.
  7. Fixation on unusual objects
    Older babies who are later diagnosed with ASD develop fixations on unusual objects like fans, parts of toys (but not the toy), floor or ceiling patterns.

Postscript

I am receiving a high volume of e-mails from parents listing signs and concerns that they have with their infants after reading this post. I am unable to offer a diagnosis via e-mail nor am I qualified to say that there are signs in an infant that warrant seeking an autism diagnosis. If you have questions and concerns regarding your baby’s development, please make an appointment to see you doctor or pediatrician as they can offer the best medical advice. I am a parent of two young adults with autism with no medical background. I am unable to offer an opinion about parental concerns around infant development.

For further reading on this topic:

Could It Be Autism? A Parent’s Guide to the First Signs and Next Steps

Does My Child Have Autism?: A Parent’s Guide to Early Detection and Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorders

 

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  1. Vanessa says:

    My daughter is almost 10 months old and is hitting all her milestones she crawls pulling to stand and laughs with us and other family members. She also claps and waves but she doesn’t respond to her name. Should I be worried? I’ve been seeing so many post of babies with autism 

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your daughter. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  2. Shaniqua Cranmer says:

    This is a question more then a comment, my 10 month old does this thing where he cups his ear and moves his arm back and forth while clapping his ear when he gets mad or frustrated, could this be something for me to worry about? This is something new that he’s been doing and it’s causing me to question what’s going on? He also won’t look when his name is called, or if you speak to him he will look the other direction or want to look behind you.

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your son. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  3. Amanda G says:

    Our 12 month old is very interactive with immediate family and care takers. Often smiling and laughing, no issues with eye contact, playing peek a boo, passing toys back and forth, etc. However our nanny recently expressed concern that she may be autistic as she cries when she’s in crowded places that are loud or when other kids climb on her. She also has major separation anxiety which wasn’t the case when she was younger. Lastly, she’s been grinding her teeth on and off. I thought it was teething but now I don’t know. 

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your daughter. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  4. Alex says:

    Hi, my baby is 9 month old and she is active she makes eye contact she plays but she doesn’t answer her name when we call her. Should we be concerned?

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your daughter. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  5. Gina says:

    My son is 7.5 months and he is extremely quiet. At 4 months he had meningitis and the doctors believe he recovered well. He did 3 weeks of physical therapy at 6 months and started to crawl shortly afterwards. If I say his name he turns but he just isn’t babbling, mimicking, or is really vocal. I read that some babies focus on physical development in speech and vice versa. Is that true? Should I be worrying? 

  6. Lisette says:

    My 5 months baby tremble her hands when she is laughing and when see looking at me. when i touch her arm she stop I took her to the doctor they told me it normal and to keep on eye on her to see any other symptoms. Also she start to sucking her lip when i finished giving her bottle and sometimes i think she is hurgy and i will feed her.

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your daughter. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  7. Courtney Abrantes says:

    Hello my son is 12 weeks old. Full term baby. He doesn’t make eye contact often and when he does it’s onky when we feed him, everything else he is doing. But when I put him infront is my face to do eye contact he looks away and keeps doing so..what do you think ?? He also smiles At clothes when I hang them around the house to dry from hooks on out ceiling. 

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your son. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  8. Precy emm says:

    I have a  19mos old daughter who flaps her hands when excited watching nursery rhymes. My daughter was exposed to watching nursery rhymes video in as early as 2 mos. Her pedia advise us to see a developmental doctor  as my baby dont do eye contact with her and dont respond to her when called out during their 2 meetings. Is ist possible that the doctor can diagnose autism in my child in those 2 brief meeting with my kid? My daughter is making eye contact with me but respond only to her name when called whenever she wants to. We refrain her from watching nursery rhymes for almost a week now and she seems more attentive than she is still hooked up with the videos. She began her mamama wording wen she is 11mos but i seldom hear it from her now, only the am am am wordings. Is it a sign of autism?

    • Please follow your pediatrician’s advice and seek a developmental doctor. There are signs there that your doctor is concerned about. Your doctor is not diagnosing your daughter after two observations but it saying he sees some red flags that should be investigated. A developmental pediatrician will be better able to assess your daughter and will take more time to do so using specific assessment tools.

  9. Miliey says:

    I have a 7 month old who is really aggressive she hits ,scratches, and yells even while playing alone. She doesn’t always responds when you call her name and does this little bounce instead of a rocking back and forth. Also her babbling has become more of a grunting sound . Are these signs of autism that I should be concerned about?

    • Please read my postscript at the end of this blog post. I am unable to answer specific questions like these as I am not a doctor nor have I observed your daughter. I am a parent of two young adults with autism.

  10. rereos says:

    My baby 10month…have eyes contact…when call her name she is Responding…she is  get up 7-8times at night to get milk and continues sleep.but she doesn’t interest playing peek a boo .no social smiling at other people . only smile at me and husband.when people  look at her..she will cry at  her age 3 month until 10 month fear of people . Like doesn’t want make social friend.she is laugh when husband playing her.not too much babbling or noise just mamma aaaaa…bbbbb sometime scream.should i worry?

  11. Kim says:

    I have a 12 week old daughter who was born 8 weeks premature. She makes eye contact but only for a fee seconds. She fixates on the ceiling and the ceiling fans and has not started babbling as yet. Should I be worried?

    • Kim, this is way too early to starting worrying and your daughter was born 8 weeks prematurely so there could be some developmental delays as a result. I am assuming you are under the supervision of a pediatrician. Ask the doctor to give you a checklist of where development should be at given your daughter’s premature birth.

  12. Chrissy says:

    I have an almost 10 month old little girl who has hit every milestone except for mimicking us. She points to touch some items but she doesn’t point at far away items. Does that matter? Also, she smiles at us when we smile and make a sound or a gasp or something. But she doesn’t always smile if we just smile with no gasp or if we don’t say her name with the smile. Is that normal? Those are the only  concerning issues I have. Besides that, I ask for toys she’s holding, and she gives them to me. Is that something babies with autism can do? 

  13. Dez says:

    Hi I have a 8 month old boy who talks, smiles, plays,rolls, crawls and does all the normal stuff for his age except his eyes are still not in line. He side eyes alot and his eyes will drift, but he can focus on people and greets everyone with a smile. I just wanted your input of wether you believe he could potentially be showing signs of atisum ?

    • You may want to ask to your doctor to have your son’s eyes tested as he may have some eye tracking problem. What you have described here all sounds like normal childhood development. I do not think he is showing signs of autism based on your description. If any other concerns come up that worry you, please consult your doctor. I am only a parent, not a doctor and I have not seen your son in action.

  14. Ingrid says:

    My 7 month old daughter is doing a scratching movement with her hand, mostly on surfaces such as sheets, carpets, tables, and toys. Sometimes she moves her hands like that without anything in them. Someone told me that is a sign of autism. Is that true?. She does not exhibit any of the signs listed on the article.

  15. Randa says:

    My 7 months baby has good eye contact & laugh normally but he has hand flapping.. He does it many times… Is it autism???

    • Hand flapping can also be a way a baby expresses joy or excitement. If your baby is reaching development milestones, is happy and interactive with you, I would not worry.

  16. Rachel says:

    Hi I have a 2 year old with autism and I have a 9 month old boy as well he is showing the same signs as my 2 year old when he was his age get up 12 times a night not able to eat anything other than food custard he can’t eat baby pudding or 4 months plus food just to let people no my two year old looks people in the eyes and also looks round when u say his name not all kids with autism are the same he smiles and laughs finds things on the tv funny I new something was wrong from he was about 6 months cause I have 3 other kids before him. My question is I’ve told my health visitor about my 9 month old and they think am reading into things because of my 2 year old and haven’t been very helpful they say the young you find out the better in my case no ones listening a mother knows there child best were do I go from here !!

  17. Elaine says:

    My 12mth hand flaps constantly, he will also sit an rock backwards an forwards, he gets fixed on a toy just one toy but will then do the same movement with for example bash it into his face sometimes leaving a bruise this can go on for up to 20mins. He doesnt answer to his name but will give short spells of eye contact only when he wants to though. Do you think hes showing signs

    • Elaine, these could be early signs of autism. Is there any language development or use of gestures such as waving bye-bye? My daughter did not respond to her name either. I would suggest bringing these concerns up with your family doctor and ask where you can go from here. There are other areas that would need to be assessed before a diagnosis is made.

  18. Ruxana says:

    Hello Dennise,
    It is too early to be concerned. I have 5 months old baby. She smiled only after 4. Which is absolutely normal. She just started to roll now at 5 months. Every child is different. Wait for some more time to decide. Dont stick too much to the signs of autism, you feel that every single behavior your child is a sign of autism. This is my experience. So atleast wait until 6months.

  19. Denisse hong says:

    Hi! I have an 11 week old baby who does not track objects and doesn’t his head towards sounds. I’ also feel like he is avoiding aye contact and does not try to lift his head during tummy time. Do you think they could all be early “red flags” for autism. I brought it up to my pediatrician at his 8 week appointment but they said it was too early to detect any possible problems. My baby does smile back sometimes and bubbles back at me but that’s about it. I feel like he also doesn’t move a lot when laying on his back. Please let me know your input!!8 am really concern over here 

    • Denisse, you may be panicking too early. Do you think that your baby hears sounds? When I hear that a baby is not alerting to sounds, I worry about a hearing impairment.

      Is your baby interested in faces or just objects?

      If you still see these signs at 6 months, bring your concerns up again to your doctor. When I look back on video of my son as a baby, his autism is obvious to me now. Babies change a lot in the first year. Don’t get too alarmed yet! A lot of changes are ahead. No doctor will diagnose a baby this early with autism. Too much can change in the months ahead. You may also want to view this webinar – https://vimeo.com/78210709

  20. Rif says:

    Is it possible completely normal 5 months child who make eye contact and also smilling and make babbling will turn to autism. My sister has a autism child will that effect mine too?

  21. Curtis says:

    “Neurologically normal children” I feel should be replaced by “Neurologically typical children” as this implies that ASD in not ‘normal’ when in actuality it is not typical. By continuing to designate those with ASD as abnormal, which is the opposite of normal, you don’t help the cause of those who struggle with acceptance by society, difference and their identity. ASD, can be hard enough for a person with ASD to deal with and, they need allies, not derogatory labels.

    • Curtis, thank you for your feedback. I am going to change that right away. That was written by my editor, not me. I didn’t spot it in my proof so I apologize for that oversight. As a parent of two children with autism, I am also not keen on the word “normal” and have had many years of my children being defined by their deficits, not their strengths.

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate it.

  22. Kim Chute says:

    This was such an informative article for parents, Maureen. Thanks for sharing. I would also suggest that parents seek assistance from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for early concerns. SLPs have good insights about developing communication and can be a key support to the family.

    • Seeing an SLP was the first thing I did with my son when he just turned two. It was the SLP that suggested he may have autism. It was also an SLP who said I should assess my daughter at 16 months. Thanks for mentioning the SLP connection – much appreciated, Kim!

  23. Bindi says:

    Thank you for sharing the information about behaviors that may predict autism spectrum disorder in infants. Children are spending most of time with their parents so parents are aware with their children’s behavior. Behaviors like no social smile, no eye contact, not responding to their names, no social babbling, fixation on unusual objects are signs of ASD. It is one kind of tool that help parents to observe these kinds of behaviors in their children and they might check with doctor to their children.

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