Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that first appears during infancy or early childhood. It is distinguished not by a single symptom, but by a triad of symptoms including impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, and restricted interests and repetitive behavior.

Individuals with autism can have very different symptoms. Health care providers think of autism as a “spectrum” disorder, a group of disorders with similar features. One person may have mild symptoms, while another may have serious symptoms. But they both have an autism spectrum disorder.

Because of the varied behaviors associated with autism, it may be difficult to determine whether a child may or may not have the disorder. There are a few “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” For a parent, these “red flags” indicate that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path. Some of the red flags are:

No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter

No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter

No babbling by 12 months

No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months

No words by 16 months

No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months

Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any ageThe acronym

If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation.