Red Flags in Autism

Red Flags are a number of symptoms or early signs of autism reported by parents which should be considered as need for further evaluation by pediatricians. Have your child evaluated to rule out autism, if you suspect your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty playing with other children
  • Acts as if he/she is deaf
  • Resists learning
  • Has no fear of real danger
  • Resists change in daily routine
  • Uses people as "tools" to satisfy their needs
  • Does not use their finger to point or show you things
  • Inappropriate laughing or giggling
  • Not cuddly (body is limp or stiff)
  • Hyperactive
  • No or little eye contact
  • Inappropriate attachment to objects
  • Spin objects, has odd play
  • Destructive and aggressive at times
  • Aloof, standoffish manner
  • Sensory issues

Possible Indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age
  • Does not speak one word by 16 months
  • Does not combine two words by 2 years
  • Does not respond to name
  • Loses language or social skills

Some Other Indicators

  • Poor eye contact
  • Doesn't seem to know how to play with toys
  • Excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • Is attached to one particular toy or object
  • Doesn't smile
  • At times seems to be hearing impaired

Abstracts Related to Red Flags

Early recognition of 1-year-old infants with autism spectrum disorder versus mental retardation.

Dev Psychopathol. 2002 Spring;14(2):239-51.

Osterling JA, Dawson G, Munson JA. Center on Human Development and Disability, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.

Previous work based on observations of home videotapes indicates that differences can be detected between infants with autism spectrum disorder and infants with typical development at 1 year of age. The present study addresses the question of whether autism can be distinguished from mental retardation by 1 year of age. Home videotapes of first birthday parties from 20 infants later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 14 infants later diagnosed with mental retardation (without autism), and 20 typically developing infants were coded by blind raters with respect to the frequencies of specific social and communicative behaviors and repetitive motor actions. Results indicated that 1-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder can be distinguished from 1-year-olds with typical development and those with mental retardation. The infants with autism spectrum disorder looked at others and oriented to their names less frequently than infants with mental retardation. The infants with autism spectrum disorder and those with mental retardation used gestures and looked to objects held by others less frequently and engaged in repetitive motor actions more frequently than typically developing infants. These results indicate that autism can be distinguished from mental retardation and typical development by 1 year of age.

PMID: 12030690 [PubMed]

Read more pages on this site describing red flags in autism.

Articles Related to Red Flags

Early diagnosis of autism is important if children are to achieve their full potential, explains Jennifer Humphries

Autism: recognizing the signs in young children

Families Generally Happy With Initial Early Intervention Services Study Shows

Note: News articles online may only be available for a short period of time.

Free Resources on Red Flags

First Signs, Inc. provides extensive vital information, covering a range of issues: from healthy development to concerns about a child, from the screening and referral process to treatment, and from current research and guidelines to links to other resources on the Internet and in print.

For free information on developmental milestones, tools to track your child's developments, and resources about developmental problems and developmental screening, visit

What is autism?

Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT)

Early Intervention

Return to Home page