Autism usually manifests in the first year of life; its onset is not later than 3 years. Listed below are some of the things to watch for as a child grows. These developmental landmarks may be used as a guide to gauge a child’s development. If there are any concerns about a child’s development or if there is a loss of any skills at any age talk to a doctor as soon as possible.

Normal Autism
By end of 12 months By end of 12 months
  • Watches faces intently, responds to other people’s expressions of emotion
  • Does not pay attention to or frightened of new faces
  • Smiles, imitates some facial expressions, follows moving object with eyes
  • Does not smile, does not follow moving object with eyes
  • Begins to babble, imitates sounds and words, brings hand to mouth
  • Does not babble, laugh and has difficulty bringing objects to the mouth
  • Has single words like “dada”, repeats sounds or gestures for attention
  • Has no words
  • Turns head toward direction of sound, responds to own name
  • Does not turn head to locate sounds and appears not to respond to loud noises
  • Pushes down on legs when feet placed on a firm surface; raises head and chest when lying on stomach
  • Does not push down on legs when feet placed on a firm surface
  • Smiles at mother or primary care-givers voice, prefers them over all others
  • Does not show affection to primary care-giver, dislikes being cuddled
  • Can sit up without assistance, can pull self up to stand, walks holding on to furniture
  • Does not crawl, cannot stand when supported
  • Waves ‘bye-bye’ and points to objects
  • Does not use gestures such as waving or pointing


Normal Autism
By 24 months By 24 months
  • Walks alone, with support can negotiate stairs and furniture, carries and pulls toys while walking
  • Cannot walk by 18 months or walks only on his toes, cannot push a wheeled toy
  • Has several single words by 15 to 18 months; uses simple phrases by 24 months
  • Does not speak; does not imitate actions, cannot follow simple instructions
  • Imitates behavior of others, excited about company of other children
  • Does not appear to know the function of common household object such as a telephone by 15 months


Normal Autism
By 36 months By 36 months
  • Uses 4-5 word sentences, understands most sentences and instructions
  • Very limited speech, does not use short phrases, has difficulty in understanding simple instructions
  • Imitates adults and playmates, expresses affection openly, separates easily from parents
  • Has little interest in other children, has difficulty separating from mother or primary care-giver
  • Sorts objects by shape and color
  • Difficulty in manipulating small objects
  • Plays make believe
  • Has little interest in ‘make-believe’ play
  • Climbs well, runs, kicks a ball, negotiates stairs unaided
  • Frequently falls, has difficulty with stairs



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