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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that appears in early childhood and continues throughout a person’s life. Signs of ASD typically appear before age 3, but symptoms sometimes are not noticed until later.

Autism symptoms may include the following:

  • Problems with communication and eye contact
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Obsessive interests

Because autism can range in severity and symptoms, it sometimes goes unrecognized.

Autism: what you should know

  • Children experience autism symptoms differently, and symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems. That’s why it’s important to discuss your observations about your child with your pediatrician. This will help to determine if further assessment is necessary for your child.
  • Below are some common symptoms of autism:
    • No smiling by 6 months of age
    • No back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles or facial expressions by 9 months
    • No babbling, pointing, reaching or waving by 12 months
    • No single words by 16 months
    • No two-word phrases by 24 months
    • Minimal eye contact by age 2
    • Regression in development
    • Any loss of speech or social skills
  • The cause of autism is still not completely understood. Research suggests that both environmental conditions and genetic factors play a role.
  • Although there is no cure for autism, there are a wide variety of treatment options that can provide a positive impact on your child’s development. Treatment can help reduce disruptive behaviors and symptoms. 
  • Autism is more prevalent in boys than girls, with four times as many boys affected. Autism is found in all socioeconomic classes. 

How can I get help if I suspect my child has autism?

Most health experts agree that early diagnosis and intervention for autism can make an important difference in your child’s life. If you suspect a problem in your child, a good first step is to talk to your pediatrician.

At Rush, pediatricians screen all children before the age of 24 months to see if they are at risk for autism. If there are areas of concern, your pediatrician will recommend that your child undergo comprehensive assessments by a child and adolescent psychologist, pediatric neurologist or a developmental specialist. At Rush, children are often referred to the Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services (AARTS) Center.