What are the main red flags for autism?

Red flags for possible autism in young children involve difficulties with social communication and interaction.

The following warning signs could mean a child is potentially at risk for autism:

  • Not smiling or expressing joy by 6 months
  • Not sharing smiles, facial expressions, or sounds back and forth with caregiver by 9 months
  • Not responding to name or babbling by 12 months
  • Not gesturing back and forth with others (e.g. pointing, showing, waving) by 12-14 months
  • Not using words by 16 months
  • Not participating in pretend play by 18 months
  • Not combining two words together on his or her own by 24 months
  • Regression of previously learned language and social skills

If your child shows any of these warning signs, act fast and talk to your pediatrician right away.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, April 2019


  1. Hello.

    I’m not sure if this is the correct place to comment to ask for questions/advice, I’m new here.

    My daughter just turned 14 months. She is the happiest girl, always smiling and laughing. She started eating solids by 6 months, she is an amazing eater. Nothing she really doesn’t like and she feeds herself no problem. She is so smart, and is a quick learner. Once you show her something, she’s really quick to catch on.

    However, I do have some concerns about autism. Both of my nephews are diagnosed (my nephew and my husbands nephew), so I think it’s just always on the back of my mind with our daughter as my understanding the possibility is higher when family is diagnosed.

    She reached almost all of her milestones on time (rolling, babbling, smiling) except for crawling, she started crawling at 9.5 months which I am under the impression is a bit late? Also started pulling herself to stand with support around the same time.

    By 12 months she is fully walking along furniture. Constantly walking around the coffee table and couch and along the walls lol. Also uses her walker really well. Her balance isn’t the greatest though. She was definitely getting better by 13 months she could stand by herself for almost a minute. Just before turning 14 months she actually took 8 steps walking towards me.

    Then she got sick… had her 3rd ear infection within 4 months… and balance has completely set back and she doesn’t even want to attempt to try and take steps again. Doctors said the ear infections will cause this and throw off balance. She is better now (been a week) and still isn’t trying to stand on her own or take steps.

    I’ve also noticed she has regressed in a few other areas. She’s very smart, she knows where her tongue, nose and feet are. She points to them when you ask her “where is your nose”. She has recently stopped doing this now too, and when we ask her, she seems to get frustrated with us asking lol. She would clap when we would ask her to, and now she won’t, she just gets frustrated.

    She also tells/screams a lot. It’s usually when she’s being wild and crazy, so I assume she is just having a good time letting it out, but I also have heard something about screaming in autistic toddlers?

    Lastly, she is not saying words. She babbles and says dada but is not really referring to dad when she says it. Although she knows who everyone is. Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and even our dog. Whenever we ask, “where is” so and so, she will point to them. She doesn’t even attempt to try and copy the words I say. She actually gets frustrated a bit when I ask her “can you say, mama”? Things like that.

    I’ve asked our doctor to refer my daughter to a pediatrician many times and he has denied. I just want to know a pediatricians thoughts on all this? Are regressions like she’s going through common? Or is this a sign? Could the ear infection have caused this regression?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this essay lol.
    I hope to hear some feedback


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