Recognizing Autism in Toddlers

How can I know if my child might be in danger of developing autism? He's one year old and starting to walk, but he hasn't begun talking yet – no "mama," "dada," or anything else. If he wants something, he just points and screeches. I've also noticed that he often stares off into the distance and seems to slip into his own little world for a moment or two several times a day. He usually snaps out of it eventually, but if he doesn't we really have to work hard to get his attention. Is this normal?

The fact that your boy isn’t talking yet shouldn’t be a concern. Language development varies greatly from child to child. Many children don’t begin saying “mama” or “dada” until well into their second year of life. Their level of verbal development at the time of their first birthday does not predict how verbally skilled they will be by age two or three, nor does it tell you anything about their overall level of intelligence.

On the other hand, it is concerning that your son seems to stare off into space several times a day, and that you have to work to regain his attention. This could be a sign of a hearing problem, a developmental delay, or even recurring minor seizures (“petit mal” seizures).

You didn’t mention whether your child has been receiving regular “well baby” checkups from a pediatrician or a family physician. If not, he should be. In light of what you’ve told us, we’d suggest that you make an appointment right away, describe the behaviors you’ve been observing at home, and ask the physician to give your son a complete medical and developmental evaluation.

If you’d like to discuss your situation at greater length with a member of our staff, call our Counseling department for a free consultation. They’d be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


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Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

Hope for Families of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Articles and Broadcasts

Autism in Toddlers


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