Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development — social interaction, language and behavior. But because autism symptoms and severity vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. In most cases, though, children with severe autism have marked impairments or a complete inability to communicate or interact with other people.
Some children show signs of autism in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life, but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills they've already acquired.
According to Autism Speaks, the following "red flags" may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:
The Mayo clinic offers a more detailed list of some common autism symptoms:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children receive autism screening at 18 and 24 months of age. Two popular tools for use in developmental surveillance are the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT) and the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT). Recent research published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health (Sunita and Bilszta, J. L. (2012), Early identification of autism: A comparison of the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers and the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2012.02558.x) finds that the M-CHAT has slightly better sensitivity and specificity compared to CHAT, and is preferable to use as a developmental surveillance screening instrument.
Autism Speaks offers the M-CHAT online. This simple screening tool includes only 23 questions and can be completed quickly. http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/mchat