Autism South Africa was started by concerned parents in
order to assist others in need with children on the spectrum. Parents need to
know that Autism is treatable. Early intervention is critical and act as early
as you can.
Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers:
- Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
- Doesn't smile when smiled at.
- Doesn't respond to his or her name or to the sound of a
- Doesn’t follow objects visually.
- Doesn't point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
- Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
- Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
- Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
- Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
- Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and
- Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your
- By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful
- By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or
other facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
- By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
- By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing,
showing, reaching, or waving.
- By 16 months: No spoken words.
- By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t
involve imitating or repeating.
Signs in older children
As children get older, the red flags for autism become more
diverse. There are many warning signs and symptoms, but they typically revolve
around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, non-verbal
communication difficulties, and inflexible behaviour.
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with
autism spectrum disorders. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to
live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s
going on around them.
- Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
- Doesn’t play "pretend" games, engage in group
games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
- Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings.
- Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her.
- Doesn't share interests or achievements with others
Speech and language difficulties
Children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with
speech and language. Often, they start talking late.
- Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm
or pitch (e.g. ends every sentence as if asking a question).
- Repeats the same words or phrases over and over.
- Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than
- Refers to themselves in the third person.
- Uses language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words).
- Has difficulty communicating needs or desires.
- Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or
- Takes what is said too literally (misses undertones of humour,
irony, and sarcasm).
Children with autism spectrum disorders have trouble picking
up on subtle non-verbal cues and using body language. This makes the
"give-and-take" of social interaction very difficult.
- Avoids eye contact.
- Uses facial expressions that don't match what he or she is
- Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone
of voice, and gestures.
- Makes very few gestures (such as pointing). May come across
as cold or “robot-like.”
- Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds.
May be especially sensitive to loud noises.
- Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving
(e.g. walking exclusively on tiptoe).
Children with autism spectrum disorders are often
restricted, inflexible, and even obsessive in their behaviours, activities, and
- Follows a rigid routine (e.g. insists on taking a specific
route to school)
- Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or
environment (e.g. throws a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged or bedtime is
at a different time than usual).
- Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys,
light switches, or rubber bands.
- Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain
- Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, often
involving numbers or symbols (e.g. memorizing and reciting facts about maps,
train schedules, or sports statistics).
- Spends long periods of time arranging toys in specific ways,
watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part
of an object such as the wheels of a toy car.
- Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again,
such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling (known as self-stimulatory behaviour
or “stimming”). Some researchers and clinicians believe that these behaviours
may soothe children with autism more than stimulate them.
- Hand flapping
- Rocking back and forth
- Spinning in a circle
- Finger flicking
- Head banging
- Staring at lights
- Moving fingers in front of the eyes
- Snapping fingers
- Tapping ears
- Lining up toys
- Spinning objects
- Wheel spinning
- Watching moving objects
- Flicking light switches on and off
- Repeating words or noises
Educating parents to the signs of possible autism, is key to
ensuring that a child with autism is diagnosed early and that all the required
therapy be started as young as possible.
Autism SA is able to assist with paediatricians and
therapists details, should parents not be able to find anyone with the required
information in the immediate area. We have six branches . For more information phone 011-48409909. Visit the website
here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org