Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

10 early signs of autism in children

Early diagnosis of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is crucial. Unfortunately, most children are not diagnosed until two or three years after the first signs of the disorder are identifiable.

Why an early assessment and diagnosis is important

Early interventions allow for better outcomes for children, especially in areas such as learning and cognitive ability, language development and adaptive functioning.

Children can now be effectively screened and assessed from as early as 12 months and a reliable diagnosis possible at 24 months.

The 10 early signs of autism in children include:

  1. Does not respond consistently to their name or attempts to get their attention.
  2. Rarely uses gestures without being told or prompted first, such as waving goodbye or blowing a kiss.
  3. Displays unusual or inconsistent eye contact such as looking away when someone is talking to them, or focusing eye contact on objects and surroundings more often than people.
  4. Does not initiate or reciprocate smiles with caregiver.
  5. Rarely uses gesture to make requests and may instead pull at the caregiver’s body or arm to lead them to something.
  6. Does not hold up objects up or point to things of interest to share an experience.
  7. May be extremely sensitive to sensory experiences and become upset by certain sounds, bright lights or the feel of certain fabrics on their skin.
  8. Shows an intense interest in certain objects and become ‘stuck’ on particular toys or objects.
  9. Play tends to be repetitive and limited, and may not reflect the way the toys are normally played with.
  10. Child is easily upset by changes in the environment or routine.

What to do if you think your child has autism

The first step is to speak to your GP or a paediatrician about your concerns.

Your doctor can refer you to a psychologist or other allied health professional who is trained in assessing and diagnosing autism in children. 

An assessment for autism involves:

  • interview with caregivers and child-care/pre-school staff
  • completion of standardised questionnaires by key persons
  • standardised observations of the child’s social communication, play and behaviour
  • developmental assessment, including intellectual profile and adaptive skills
  • a comprehensive report and feedback session with parents, including recommendations.

Are you eligible for a rebate?

You may be eligible for a rebate under the Helping Children With Autism Funding if your child is referred by a paediatrician or psychiatrist and the assessment is performed before the child’s 13th birthday. 

Contact us now for an assessment

Psychology Melbourne takes referrals for autism and related conditions from 18 months of age through to adulthood.

Our clinical psychologists have more than 10 years' experience working with children on the autism spectrum and providing comprehensive assessment for young children, including toddlers.