Here are some particularly useful videos to help detect the early signs of autism:
Really good tutorial from Odeley Mental Health.
A similar video looking at early signs of social impairment.
An autistic woman analyses early videos of herself.
Eight Early Signs
A list of eight markers was determined stemming from the research results at the Mifne Center between the years 1997-2007. These can be observed from the early months of a child's life.
Lack of crying, lack of movement, and lack of interest in surroundings – often the baby seems comfortable, showing no sign of distress, hunger etc. Sleeping all night long during the initial months of life.
Continuous crying, lack of physical tranquility (unrelated to any medical cause). Research has found that babies who cry a lot during their first year are more likely to become hyperactive during childhood.
3. Resistance to Eat/Feed
A high percentage of children within the autistic spectrum exhibit eating difficulties at different levels: refusal to breastfeed, refusal to transition to bottle feeding, or to transition from liquid to solid foods. In many cases these difficulties can already be seen during the first months of life.
4. Lack of Direct Eye Contact with People
A baby with an attachment and communication developmental disorder has no difficulty watching an object but does have difficulty forming direct eye contact with people. Nevertheless, there are babies who need a longer period for the maturation of their channels of vision (at the age of 4-5 months).
5. Lack of Reaction to the Voice or Presence of a Parent
There is no turning of the head, no response to his/her name, no smile or babbling. A distinction should be drawn between a lack of reaction to a voice and lack of reaction to the presence of a parent: even if a baby does not hear, he/she will react to the presence of a parent. In any case, a hearing test should first be conducted before drawing conclusions.
6. Withdrawal from Parental Touch (or Touch of any Other Person)
Some babies experience sensory-overload, so that any physical contact may disturb them. This obviously engenders very difficult feelings for the parents, but it is important to explain that the baby is not rejecting them, but has real difficulty with his tactile sense and regulation.
7. Delayed Motor Development
There are babies with attachment and communication development disorders whose motor development is swift, but very often babies exhibit hypotonia (low muscle tension) and their motor development is delayed. This sign is not conclusive for autism.
8. Accelerated Growth of the Circumference of the Head in Relation to its Starting Point
A study conducted by Courchesne (2003) found that, in certain cases, children diagnosed with autism were born with small head circumferences, but within two years the circumference grew rapidly so that it reached larger dimensions of head circumference in comparison to typical development of children. This sign is not conclusive for autism.
It is important to note that each of these symptoms may indicate other disorders not related to autism, and so other medical examinations to negate these possibilities may be advisable. Once this has been done and two of the above-mentioned symptoms persist over time, the possibility of a development disorder linked to autism should be more seriously investigated.
Want more specific guidance for your child?
Our Q-CHAT checklist tool, developed in association with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University, will give a good indication whether your toddler (18-30 months) is likely to be autistic.
We would also recommend checking out our book, Transforming Autism, which provides a detailed description of Guy (our CEO)'s journey taking care of his own autistic son whose autism was identified at age 1. It is written with the intention of being genuinely useful in terms of providing tangible principles and behaviours that families can practically use (and which would otherwise be unavailable) to give some level of support to their young children.