What are the symptoms of Autism?

Some symptoms of autism are limited eye contact, inappropriate responses, over-reactions to changes in routine, inability to express empathy, lack of impulse control, OCD behaviours and distaste for physical contact.

Parents and doctors may notice the onset of symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in children before they are three years old. Some symptoms are limited eye contact, inappropriate responses, over-reactions to changes in routine, inability to express empathy, lack of impulse control, OCD behaviours, distaste for physical contact, regressive behaviour, and inability to concentrate or pay attention. If any of these symptoms appear in your child, you should seek help as soon as possible.

What is autism?

People with autism have different strengths and weaknesses in everyday life. While children with autism may lag behind their peers in certain areas of social development, they may also exhibit other difficulties.  Lagging development of social skills is a common observation during the development of a child with autism and is seen in autistic adults.

People with autism may seem to have very limited imagination in the way we expect children to express imagination. Depending on the severity of the disorder, a person may require significant daily care or require intensive care, while others may be able to live independently. In addition to the various physical and mental issues that are associated with autism, these people may exhibit extreme interests and repetitive behaviours.

As with other mental disorders, autism is diagnosed by collecting information about the behaviours and traits of a person.  An autism assessment will take into account language skills, nonverbal communication skills such as body language and expression through face and tone of voice.

For more on what is autism, with a more open minded look, be sure to read the post titled 'What is Autism?'

What is autistic behaviour?

Children with autism spectrum disorder tend to have restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. These behaviours appear in many combinations and can be mild or severe. Scientists categorise repetitive behaviours into two main groups: lower-order repetitive behaviours include fidgeting, vocalisations, and hand flapping, and higher-order repetitive behaviours include routines and intense interests.

There are other behaviours that are common in children with autism, which can introduce challenges for parents.  Autistic children may not behave in socially acceptable ways in public.  These challenges can make it difficult for parents to perform tasks that other parents take for granted, such as grocery shopping or visiting friends and family.  Often autistic children will make loud outbursts in public that others find uncomfortable.  As a result, members of the public may shame or ridicule the parents and the child, causing embarrassment, particularly for parents.

What are some common early signs of autism?

It's important to be aware of the early signs of autism.  We go into more detail in our blog post dedicated to the early signs of autism, however here is a high level summary.

The first sign of autism can be difficult to notice, especially since each child displays the symptoms differently. Some children may exhibit signs before they are twelve months of age, while others may not show any symptoms at all. Although the onset of the symptoms can begin at any age, most children with autism will exhibit signs between the ages of two and three years. However, it is vital to seek a professional evaluation as early as possible to prevent any further complications.

When considering the early signs of autism, keeping in mind the child may be quite young, here are some common signs to look out for.
  • The child is not interested in playing with toys or cuddling.
  • The child is difficult to interact with, even in the comfort of their home.
  • Babies with autism are often unresponsive to eye contact, loud noises, and gestures.
  • They are not able to respond to familiar objects, faces, or sounds.
  • They also may have limited interest in pointing or expressing feelings.
  • They may have delayed speech.
There are other symptoms that go along with autism, which are not necessarily autism symptoms.  These include inflammation and gut issues such as diarrhoea or constipation.  Don't ignore symptoms such as these.  They don't need to be used in the diagnosis of autism, but they need to be addressed to help your child overcome their challenges.  

It's important to not the the above list are some of the red-flags for autism, but what about the yellow-flags?  If you miss the yellow-flags, you get more red-flags.  Gut issues are an obvious yellow-flag.  However there are other yellow-flags such as persistent toe walking.  Persistent toe walking can be a sign of non-integrated primitive reflexes.  Thankfully a good primitive reflex practitioner can resolve this delay and significantly help improve your child's development.  If this is a concern, I have gone into more details in this post.

We have a few post talking about gut health.  Explore our blog to read more about gut health.  You may want to start with this post talking about probiotics and autism.  Often parents waste a lot of money on probiotics, thinking that they will magically fix their child's gut issues.  Before you spend money on probiotics, read autism and probiotics post, and consider healing their gut with food.

Can symptoms of autism be something else?

It's wise to keep in mind other conditions that may mimic the symptoms of autism.  Developmental milestones may be missed for reasons that are not related to ASD.

Sometimes we look to label a child with autism, so that access to support is more readily available. It is important, however, to focus on making a diagnosis that is the most accurate, so that the treatments are chosen that address the needs of the child. As a parent, being armed with knowledge and asking questions will help the professionals make a diagnosis that results in the best care for your child.

Sensory issues are often misdiagnosed as autism because of some similarity in behaviours. Many kids with sensory issues will experience some of the same behaviours as those with autism. People with Autism may have sensory issues. However, I don't think that sensory issues should always be considered a form of autism. Some kids with sensory issues may have difficulty processing information or understanding social cues. Other kids with sensory issues will have difficulties with language or motor skills.

One reason that it's important to explore treatments for sensory issues prior to an autism diagnosis, is that a child may overcome many difficulties once the sensory issues are addressed. 

Anxiety is another condition that can look similar to autism.  Anxiety is characterised by extreme fearfulness and avoidance behaviour. Kids with anxiety often avoid situations that make them feel anxious. Your child may also be very sensitive to noise, lights, smells and textures. Anxious kids may also have trouble sleeping or eating.

Selective mutism may also be associated with heightened anxiety, which may mimic some of the communication difficulties that can be a sign of autism.

Kids with anxiety may also exhibit repetitive behaviours such as rocking back and forth, hand flapping or spinning. Some kids with anxiety may also have sensory issues.

The most obvious difference between autism and anxiety is that kids with anxiety usually understand what others mean when they talk to them. Kids with anxiety do not have problems communicating their thoughts and feelings.If your child has signs of anxiety, it would be wise to seek the help of a psychologist that specialises in children's anxiety.

Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is important to follow the normal diagnosis and treatment path in your country.  I recommend that you also keep an open mind to explore more options and cast a wider net.  There are a wide range of things you can do to improve the effectiveness of early intervention and other autism treatments.  Just as environmental factors can contribute to the symptoms of autism, understanding those factors can improve the results form early interventions.

Unfortunately, common treatments for ASD rarely consider strategies for enhancing the health of the body and the brain.  When we as parents understand the fact that the treatments focus on things other than promoting health, we get a surge of optimism.  It means that grim picture being painted by the experts, may not need to be true for our children.  It may be grim for the standard treatment path, but having so many parents report great results by adding healthy lifestyle changes, it means there's more hope for us and our children.

This doesn't mean that we ignore the experts in the field of autism, it just means that we have more options available for us to add to the treatment plan.  

For more information, please read our blog post about healing autism naturally.  In this post you'll find some good ideas, particularly dietary ideas that many families have used to help their children with autism. 

Please consider seeing a local integrational health practitioner, which is a doctor that treats more complex chronic conditions by improving health with a scientific approach. 

Also consider getting an autism life coach.  Parenting a child on the spectrum is difficult, and having a coach will help you a lot.  More importantly, a coach will help your child.  A coach, who is normally a parent of a child with autism, can see things that you miss.  They can guide you in the right direction, avoiding pitfalls and strategies that are a waste of time and money.  Found out more about options for autism coaching and our private community.


Warren Gouin
Warren Gouin

I'm a parent of a child that was diagnosed with autism. I'm an engineer and scientist with most of my career in the diagnostic pathology industry. I'm passionate about improve health and I want to help other parents of children with autism.

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