Autism Signs: Age One Through Three

The majority of children who are diagnosed with Autism are diagnosed soon after their second birthday. This is due to the fact that most developmental milestones are reached during this time. Autism signs can be observed in three specific areas of a child’s life: social interactions, communication and repetitive behaviors. Please remember that ten children can have the exact same diagnosis and all ten children are completely different from each other. No two children with autism are exactly alike.

For this section we will list specific autism signs that parents should be watching for in their child’s social interactions, communications, and behavior. If you notice these signs of autism in your child at any point in their development; please have them screened for autism. Early screening, detection, and intervention are crucial for improved outcomes for children with autism.

Autism Signs: Social Interactions

    • Lack of or poor eye contact. Toddlers are social beings. The lack of eye contact or poor eye contact is a strong indicator of autism.
    • Unaware of other people’s feelings. Toddlers are generally pretty good at deciphering other people and children’s feelings. For example, as early as 24 months of age, if you pretend to cry, your toddler will pat you on the back or give you one of their favorite toys or blankets to “help you feel better.” Children with autism have a difficult time relating to these feelings.
    • Not responding to their name being spoken. When a parent or caregiver says a toddler’s name; at the very least they should turn their head toward the sound of their name being spoken.
    • Prefer playing alone. Most children with autism are not very social and may prefer to retreat into their “own world.” While it is absolutely normal for toddlers to play alone at times; most of their play will be centered around adult interactions and pretend play.

Autism Signs: Communication/Language Development

    • Lack of or poor eye contact. As stated above; the lack of eye contact is a strong indication of autism. When a toddler makes a request such as stating “more,” or reaching for an object the toddler should be making eye contact to make sure they have your attention. If this is not happening, this is cause for concern.
    • Lack of conversation skills. The toddler with autism may have a difficult time starting or maintaining a conversation.
    • The way that a toddler speaks may be abnormal in their tone or rhythm. For example, the child may speak with a sing song voice or a robot like speech.
    • Talking begins after the age of two. By two years of age a child should be saying at least one word statements.
    • A toddler may repeat words or phrases verbatim that they have heard; yet they may not understand how to use the words or what the words mean. Toddlers often repeat everything they hear; however, they should pass through this phase and begin creating their own statements with the words they have learned. Also, they should use the words to initiate their own conversations.
    • Losing previously acquired skills or language. If at anytime a toddler seems to lose skills, a parent should have them screened.

Autism Signs: Behavior

    • Extreme sensitivity to light, sound and touch. Normal lighting may cause extreme discomfort to a child with autism. Even normal speaking voices can seem like screams to a child with autism. Touch, even simply wearing clothing can cause a child with autism to experience pain.
    • Seems oblivious to pain. Even with the extreme sensitivity to touch, light and sound that may be present in a child with autism, that same child may be oblivious to pain. For example, falling and breaking a bone may not bother the child at all and they may not even complain of the pain.
    • Very specific routines and rituals. A child with autism may develop a specific routine and any deviation from this routine can cause a major meltdown for the child. Even something as simple as taking a different route to daycare can be very upsetting for a child with autism.
    • Repetitive movements. A child with autism may constantly display rocking, spinning, and hand flapping.
    • Head banging or biting themselves when getting upset.

If any of these autism signs are present in your toddler aged 1-3 years old, please do not hesitate to have your child screened.  Remember, no one knows your child as well as you do.  Insist on thorough screening if you are the least bit concerned that your child may be displaying signs of autism.

Model Me Kids “Going Places” helps your child understand proper behavior in several different situations. (note: this is an affiliate link and so is the banner on this page. Should you chose to purchase anything this site will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your continued support!)

A few additional links that provide good information:

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • jackie donohoe 23 January, 2012, 19:51

    iread the above article on autism, i am concerned with my grand daughter she is 17mts this feb. she dosent play with other children and has 2 cousins 20 mt boy and 3yr old girl, this concerns me. also she hum ahs for awhile weather it be sleep time or play time. she will just hum!, she is terrified of elevators, and also going into strange places, offices especially, she will cry uncontrolably. now she has this pinky and ring finger touching together when she is stressed.. otherwise she is pretty dam smart. says some words, and does not always answer when her name is called, but does other times. very confusing. i mentioned to the dr. re this and was told not to be concerned SHOULD I.?? THANKYOU.

  • Crystal 28 January, 2012, 22:18

    Hello Jackie,

    As we have stated many times, NO one knows your child/grandchild like you do. Not all physicians are trained on recognizing autism, so it never hurts to get a second opinion.

    A checklist from one of our previous post that some physicians are using can be found at

    It is a free file that will give you a more detailed checklist than what you see here.
    We wish you and your family the best!

  • robert smith 21 May, 2013, 21:41

    my son turn two three month ago and he not talking like other kids his age but he do say word like should i b worried

    • Crystal 27 May, 2013, 16:34

      Hello Robert,

      If you have not already, I would seek the opinion of a qualified Pediatrician. Many will have some advanced knowledge/training concerning Autism and will be able to advise you.

      When you say not talking like other kids, do you mean not saying as many words or using full sentences? Or is pronunciation off some? Would love to know more, keep us posted on what you find out and we hope all is well.

  • Rakesh 18 October, 2013, 23:48

    My daughter is 30 months old and she speaks very few words compared to other kids of her age but she is very smart and very active always playing. When she wants something she pulls us or take us over there and points to the things she want, She is very active always playing and she never plays with doll and her favourite toy is Ball. If no one is around and if she wants a thing that is in height she stacks cushion or toys up one after another and climbs over and gets her things she does same thing to look out of the window. Immitates the actions of cartoon character while watching Cartoon and even imitates the vocal. She looks for the anyone going into the kitchen and as someone is about to enter the kitchen then she follows them and as the kitchen door is about to close she sneaks inside kitchen and opens up refrigerator all my by her own and looks for her favourite candy and cheese and after getting them she brings them back to living room and devours on it. She waves bye bye when some is leaving and when we met someone outside than we ask her to greet that person by saying hello she moves forwards and offers a Hand Shake and when we call her by her name she responds well and only sometimes she doesn’t respond and When I checked sign for Austism in this website there are one or two points that my daughter have others she don’t have. So should I worry about my Daughter regarding the language development or is she an Austic?

  • Missy 7 November, 2013, 05:14

    Dear Rakesh,
    Your daughter does not sound autistic at all. Have you had her hearing checked to make sure her language development isn’t related to her hearing? As a nurse, I have to say that I think autism is way over-diagnosed. I do not believe there are nearly as many kids with autism and attention-deficit disorder as we are led to believe. Developmental milestones are guidelines and not set in stone. My daughter has a supposed language delay and I agreed to let her work with an early intervention social worker for her speech. After one session, she suddenly started talking up a storm, but I know it had absolutely nothing to do with her one interaction with a social worker who isn’t even a speech therapist. Sometimes kids just reach milestones a little later or earlier than others, but it doesn’t always mean that something is wrong. I’m not saying you should ever ignore any concerns about your child and believe me, I worry all the time about all sorts of little things with my daughter. However, be careful not to get too wrapped up in all the drama about autism unless there is something that is pretty obviously wrong. As a nurse I really get annoyed when doctors start prescribing every kid Ritalin who gets bad grades. Furthermore, having worked alongside social workers for many years, I can tell you that they are trained to find all the wrongs and they often ignore all the rights. Social workers can be great, but I have found that when it comes to kids, they can also be very suspicious of parents and and no matter what a wonderful parent you are they will look at a zit as a sign of abuse. So just be careful to not get too wrapped up in a million medical consults for a perfectly healthy little girl. She might not be healthy anymore after some of these nutty doctors and social workers get ahold of her and start pumping her full of Ritalin and whatever else. You know your child better than anyone. Trust your judgment.

  • perla 25 June, 2014, 03:13

    Hi my name is perla i have a couple of questions i have six children i hav a 11 year old that is not capable of learning but yet has had no diognoses my 5yr old daughter was diognossed with globle delay my son was diognosed with developmental delay he is 2 years ol i have a 1year old daughter that talks more than my 2 year old my 2yr old dont talk at all.he prefers to play alone please help me to find a diognoses


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