10 answers

One Year Old Arm Flapping

I have a question to any mom who has possibly experienced a similar situation. My one year old son (13 months to be exact) is very normal for the most part.... walks, talks a lot(he is actually starting to count), eats well, sleeps good, ect.... One thing he has done for quite sometime is flap his arms when he is excited or wants something. I know they say arm flapping is a sign of autism (which I have been watching for other signs), but I don't know if this is a sign in him. I am wondering if maybe this is just his way to show he wants something until he can actually tell me or something that others boys have done too and they grow out of. He has done this probably since the age of six months. Has anyone experienced the same thing or have any suggestions on how I can help him show his needs in other ways???

What can I do next?

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My son is 3 and still flapps is arms when he gets excitied or needs to tell us something"important"...
unless there are other signs i wouldn't worry too much about it.

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Hi L., my son is autistic and NEVER flapped LOL
Alot of kids do this and are completely typical. 13 months is very young...Kudos to you and keeping a watchful eye.
I'd try to encourage your child to use words/start the use of language....VERY IMPORTANT.
IF you are still concerned, you can conact Early Intervetion to do a "milestone" eval just to be safe.
Sadly ped docs are realy quick to dismiss parental concerns, it happened to me and my child DOES have a disability.
I hope this puts you at ease.

My normal, healthy 2 1/2 year old son used to do the same thing. I used to study autism, so I too was extremely concerned about the signs, but after observing his social behavior and discussing the situation with his pediatrician, I felt some relief. The arm flapping was just as you mentioned, a sign of excitement. As your son grows and develops more language and motor skills, the arm flapping will cease.
Its also interesting to note that recent studies are showing a potential link between the mother's age at conception and the incidence of autism. If this is accurate, your son's risk is low.
Don't worry. Just enjoy your child and of course, mention your concerns at your son's next appointment.

I am a mom,grandmom and have been a Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse for 21 years. In my humble opinion, if your child is normal in everything else, I would attribute this to his way of showing excite, frustration, etc. I don't see this as abnormal. I think that as he grows and matures he will find other ways to express himself. I would assume you have responded to these actions in the past and he knows they work. I would never tell you not to seek the opinion of a neurologist or Early Intervention. I think it is important for you to feel comfortable with the activities.

My son is 3 and still flapps is arms when he gets excitied or needs to tell us something"important"...
unless there are other signs i wouldn't worry too much about it.

while arm flapping is A sign of autism, there are many other signs to look for and honestly in a year old child the odds are slim to none to be diagnosed with autism. Maybe he just gets over excited and needs to get that out of his system. Try to have him talk it out. Maybe telling him to slow down and use his words will help!

Flapping is a sign if accoumpanied by other signs. If you are concerned you should contact your ped if you need a referal, or go to a child neurolgist if you don't.

My son walked on his tiptoes from the time he attempted to walk. That is a sign of autism also. I didn't know anything about autism at the time and just thought it was cute. He is 8 years old today and has no autism. If I had that information then, I would have had to panic. There is so much information out there right now that sometimes I think that it is irrisponsible. I now am afraid everytime that I have my triplets have their shots. If you have a doctor who you truly trust, you should make sure that you communicate and bring up any concerns. If your child doesn't flap when you are at the office, then video tape it and show them. They may think you're neurotic, but better safe than sorry. Especially because it is so important to get early intervention for your child if there is a problem. I know it is so scary to be a parent anymore, but if we worry about every little thing that people want to put a label on, we will miss our child growing up and how wonderful they are. Believe me, it goes fast. Good luck. No matter what, it will work out.

I confess. I was hand arm-flapper, too!

Honestly, I have the urge to do this as an adult, but I just purposefully redirect this need to move my hands into hand motions.

While it may be embarrassing for you, it does not always mean that a child is Autistic. Most of the time, it's just a way that kids say, "I'm happy!" or "I like that!" or "Hurry up and bring me the snack you promised!"

Hand motions are one of the traits of a good public speaker - they actually encourage hand motion use in university level public speaking classes. Maybe you could show them new hand-motions or learn some great hand motion songs (The Itsy Bitsy Spider comes to mind) or even teach your baby some baby sign language.


I have worked with individuals with autism for the last 5 years and if your son doesn't show any other signs it is probibly not a concern. However, if you do not like the arm flapping behavior you might try ignoring it. Chances are he uses it because it gets your attention; positive or negative attention is still attention. Ignore the arm flapping behavior and encourage him to get your attention appropriately and reinforce appropriate attempts (verbally getting your attemtion or tapping you politely) and see if the behavior stops or decreases. Even if your son has some words you should remember that it is easier for him to communicate with gesture at this age than it is with words, and you don't want him to get too frustrated, a gesture may work better to begin with, try choosing one that isn't so stigmatising as the arm flapping. If you are still concerned or have other concerns I'd visit with an early intervention provider and have him evaluated for communication delay.

Hi L. my name is M. and i have a 14 month old boy, he somtimes flaps his arms when he wants something or can't get his way. But when i asked my doctor about it he told me not to worry unless he is not progressing in other areas. Since you said that he is developing well, I would not worry. But I have a friend who has a child with autsim. so i will give her a call and ask just to be sure. I will let you know what i find out soon.

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