Early signs and characteristic traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Early signs and characteristic traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Deborah Lee MS, OTR/L

In light of April being Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, here are some early signs and characteristic traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to be mindful of if and when you have a toddler. Being able to identify and notice some of these signs earlier on will only benefit your child as you seek out interventions and therapy services (i.e., Occupational Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy, Speech Therapy) to better support them for their future.

According to the CDC, children with ASD may have challenges with:

  • Sleeping habits (have difficulty falling asleep at night, modifying environments does not help either)
  • Eating habits (picky eating habits in terms of texture, visual or color sensitivity)
  • Demonstrate repetitive behaviors such as but not limited to: repeatedly flipping pages in a book, lining toys up, repeating words or phrases after an adult or TV shows, repeatedly spin wheels on toys, spin themselves in circles, or flap their hands
  • Limited social-emotional skills
  • Prefers to play alone (some may have difficulty opening up to new people or environments)
  • Needs a consistent routine (if there is something different in their routine it can dysregulate them. For example, rainy days can impede outdoor play, which is crucial for regulation most of the time)
  • Obsessive interest in colors, shapes, and numbers
  • Appears rigid in terms of their play (they will stick to their preferred method of play with the specific toy and has difficulty exploring it in other, creative ways)
  • Grasping onto objects in each hand at all times
  • Speech delay

While these are some of the main characteristic traits and early signs of ASD, they can also look similar to Sensory Processing Disorder symptoms. And often times, children with ASD also demonstrate sensory processing challenges. It can be confusing at times to determine whether your child may or may not have ASD based on the signs; therefore, it is important to get an evaluation for your child by a psychologist as early as possible.


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