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Early Signs and Screening

Photo of a colorful child's toy

Early Signs and Screening

Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder


Impaired Social Communication:

Child does not:

  • Respond to his/her name or appears deaf
  • Share interests
  • Make eye contact
  • Have warm/joyful expression
  • Search for objects that are hidden
  • Point at something of interest
  • Interacts with peers and/or family member

Impaired Communication Skills

Child does not:

  • Babble or coo by 12 months
  • Use gestures or any words by 12 months
  • Use single words by 16 months
  • Use 2-word phrases by 24 months
  • Use typical speech (normal rhythm, pitch, volume)

Repetitive or Restricted Behaviors:

  • Focused on objects or parts of objects, such as spinning wheels of a car, fan spinning, pushing buttons
  • Repetitive body movements, such as hand flapping, spinning, toe walking, rocking, teeth grinding, slapping self
  • Resists change in routine

Other Behaviors or Concerns:

  • Over or under sensitive to lights, smells, touch, noise, tastes, pressure (sensory concerns)
  • Extreme meltdowns or tantrums
  • Sleeping difficulties

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Act Early


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children receive autism screening at 18 and 24 months of age. This screening also can identify other delays if autism spectrum disorder is not a primary concern. If there are concerns with the screening, your physician will determine the next course of action which may be further screening or referral to a physician or center that specializes in diagnostic testing for autism spectrum disorder.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers Revised (M-CHAT-R) is a validated tool for screening children ages 16 to 30 months to assess their risk for autism spectrum disorder M-CHAT-R to use to assist in determining if an autism spectrum disorder evaluation by a qualified professional is recommended. This checklist can be completed with the child's health care provider. Autism Speaks offers a free on-line version of M-CHAT-R(TM). If there is a concern, it is important to discuss it with your health care provider.

In Michigan, the Great Start Program offers Early On® as a resource for infants and toddlers from birth to three years of age with developmental delays and/or disabilities. Early On® can be reached at Early On at 1-800-EarlyOn (1-800-327-5966) or