The signs of autism often appear at an earlier age than many parents realize. Being aware of the signs helps you recognize potential concerns as soon as they arise. Then you can seek an evaluation and start treatment, which makes a big difference for your child.

Getting early intervention for autism has a long-term effect on your child’s progress, helping to improve their behavior, language ability, and social skills.

If you have any questions about autism symptoms, the team at MindSet is here to help. Read on to learn more about the early signs and red-flag behaviors.

Autism, regression, and developmental milestones

The autism symptoms that appear vary depending on the person’s age and how severely they’re affected by autism.

Though symptoms are present from birth for most children with autism, studies have indicated that 15%-40% of those with autism develop normally for the first two years of life and then suddenly regress.

Now many experts realize that regression isn’t as clear cut. In fact, it’s more accurate to say that virtually all children with autism regress or lose skills at varying rates and to different degrees.

Why is this important? Because any time your child loses developmental skills, you should consider it to be a potential sign of autism.

You should also keep an eye on developmental milestones. Many children with autism — but not all — miss some of their expected milestones. If you notice a problem in your child’s development, such as a delay in speaking, it’s time to schedule an assessment.

Earliest signs of autism

On average, parents first talk with their health care provider about autism-related concerns when their child is around the age of two. And autism is typically diagnosed when children are a little over 4 years old.

However, the signs of autism often appear much earlier, as they’re noticeable by 18 months in many children. In other words, there’s a lot of variability, so it helps to be aware of the earliest signs of autism and trust your instincts if something doesn’t seem right.

You should suspect autism if your baby or toddler doesn’t:

  • Make eye contact with you, such as when feeding or talking
  • Respond to their name or the sound of your voice
  • Follow your gesture when you point things out
  • Point at something of interest
  • Make noises to get your attention
  • Respond to cuddling
  • Reach to be picked up
  • Play with you or others
  • Share other people’s interests

You may also notice that your child doesn’t seem to notice or care if you’re hurt or upset.

Autism signs in toddlers and preschoolers

As your child gets older and starts becoming more social — or at least, has more opportunities to play with others — you may notice other symptoms.

Your child may:

  • Develop repetitive movements (rocking or hand flapping)
  • Not engage in imaginary play
  • Not want to play or interact with other children
  • Not tolerate being near other children
  • Repeat the same words or phrases
  • Keep watching the same show or movie
  • Resist changes in their routine, food, or surroundings
  • Have an intense reaction to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and lights
  • Play with toys in unusual ways

Playing with toys in an unusual way means they may line up their toys or focus on one part of a toy rather than the whole toy.

How TMS helps autism

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic impulses to boost nerve activity in the brain. A series of TMS treatments can produce a long-lasting improvement in brain activity (brainwaves), which, in turn, balances brain chemicals.

People diagnosed with autism have different brainwave patterns compared with those who don’t have autism. As TMS restores typical brainwave and nerve activity, it may also improve autism symptoms.

Though TMS is still an experimental treatment for autism, it has been safely used in children and it shows incredible promise for improving repetitive behaviors, attention, and other autism challenges.

TMS therapy also improves psychological conditions associated with autism, such as depression and anxiety.

If you have questions about autism or want to learn more about getting a psychological assessment, call MindSet or schedule an appointment online.