In children between the ages of 1 and 3, some additional common symptoms of autism include repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, rocking or spinning. They may get particularly upset when routines change or during times of transition. Many children who have autism do not engage in make-believe or other types of play that involve imagination. They may not speak, or their speech development may be delayed.
If you suspect your child is showing symptoms of autism, make an appointment to see your child’s doctor. The doctor can assess your child and may refer you to a specialist who treats children with autism.
No one medical test exists to definitively diagnose autism. In many cases, a team of medical professionals who are familiar with autism work with children and parents to do a formal evaluation that assesses a child for the disease. This evaluation may include developmental tests that cover speech, language, behavior, communication and social interaction.
If a child does have autism, early diagnosis is critical. Although there is no cure for autism, interventions can be helpful in developing language, managing behavior, dealing with social interactions and learning other crucial skills. Because a young child’s brain has great capacity for learning, the sooner these interventions start, the greater and better their impact is likely to be. — Peter Jensen, M.D., Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.