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Early Signs of ASD

One of the irrefutable facts that everyone seems to agree upon is that early intervention can make a huge difference in the life of a child diagnosed with ASD. Therefore, recognizing the early signs and symptoms becomes extremely important.

Some of the current research that people find so fascinating about early identification of children with ASD is really just documenting what we already know about normal development.  Recent studies that indicate children with ASD seem more interested in looking at geometric patterns than people or not pointing at things (specifically for the purpose of shared attention with another person) are typically contrary to what children do if they do not have an ASD.

The problem is that most people don’t really know what ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ development should look like. Developmental charts and checklists can be an outstanding tool to help parents and professionals begin to recognize potential signs or symptoms of what may be an ASD.

There are a number of different resources for getting information about development, but one of the websites I find particularly useful, easy to navigate, and has a wealth of information, resources, and links is the “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC. which offers materials in English and Spanish.

Like many organizations, they have a Developmental milestones checklist.  Although not unique to the CDC, their charts do:

  • start early, before the age of one with milestones for 3 and 7 month olds.
  • have a printable checklist for parents to use in documenting their child’s development for themselves or as a tool for communicating with your doctor or other professional.
  • have two ways of viewing development. You can click on the age of a child and see milestones across many areas for that age, or you can choose an area of development (e.g., language) and see how it develops across the age from 3 months to 5 years.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Download Materials is a great link for resources in four categories:

  • General Resources: this section has a quick informational card, growth charts and fact sheets on a number of different conditions (not just ASD) and a list of organizations and links under the resources fact sheet
  • Healthcare providers: this section includes information in English and Spanish for health car providers to use in their practices
  • Childcare Providers: this section includes materials for educators to use in their setting as well as for communicating with parents. Additionally, links to other educational websites are provided
  • Resource Kits: this section includes free downloadable materials for people to learn about early identification and share it with others.

There is a page specifically designed for Families with the above-mentioned milestones, positive parenting tips, and links to other websites.

These charts/lists are not a diagnosis, nor are they meant to diagnose. They are designed as an educational tool and guidelines. There is wide variability in child development and a particular child may acquire a skill sooner or later than the chart/list suggests. Later acquisition of a skill doesn’t mean a child has ASD, nor does early acquisition of a skill suggest your child does not have ASD.  The goal is to talk to professionals about your child’s development.

I know there are a number of websites and resources out there that are excellent at disseminating information (and, of course, there are many misinformed websites as well).  My intention was not to exclude any of the quality organizations providing information, only to comment on some of the things I found useful about the “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign of the CDC site. I will try and highlight different resources throughout this blog and hope that readers understand that I can’t mention them all. That’s one of the things I commented on in my very first blog. Information overload!

Early Signs of ASD

Diane Yapko, MA

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APA Reference
Yapko, D. (2010). Early Signs of ASD. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Sep 2010
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