Red Flags of Autism


In clinical terms, there are a few absolute indicators, often referred to as red flags, that identify the behavioral or developmental markers suggesting the need for further evaluation. For a parent, these red flags should serve as a catalyst prompting developmental screening to ensure that the child is on the right developmental path. If your child shows two or more of these signs, please ask your pediatric healthcare provider for an immediate evaluation. It is also highly recommended that whenever a parent suspects that there may be such concerns that you go through a Referral Process to ensure your child gets the help he or she needs. Doctors used to (and some still do) take a "wait and see" approach, but today it is clear that early intervention is the key to the greatest possible outcomes for children with such issues. Also see Dr. Guild's Early Signs of Autism Presentation. This  Autism Fact Sheet may also be helpful.

Impairment in Social Interaction:

  • Lack of appropriate eye gaze
  • Lack of warm, joyful expressions
  • Lack of sharing interest or enjoyment
  • Lack of response to name

Impairment in Communication:

  • Lack of showing gestures
  • Lack of coordination of nonverbal communication
  • Unusual prosody (little variation in pitch, odd intonation, irregular rhythm, unusual voice quality)

Repetitive Behaviors & Restricted Interests:

  • Repetitive movements with objects
  • Repetitive movements or posturing of body, arms, hands, or fingers

Wetherby, A., Woods, J., Allen, L., Cleary, J., Dickinson, H., & Lord, C. (2004). Early indicators of autism spectrum disorders in the second year of life. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 473-493. Based on research at the Florida State University FIRST WORDS Project.