Does This Sound like Autism or Some Other Issue?

Updated on January 14, 2015
A.E. asks from Van Buren, AR
19 answers

I have a beautiful 21 month old baby girl named Lily. I had a wonderful pregnancy, and she came on her own 4 days before her due date. She developed normally up until about a year old. And I mean 99% normal. The only thing she was late on was crawling, and that took her until she was 11 months old. At 14 months even though she was very much in our world, smiling, giggling, and babbling she was not responding to her name, forming real words, pointing, or waving. Her pediatrician scheduled her an appt. with an ENT and sure enough she needed tubes. To make a long story short we were at an ENT at around her 7 month mark for something completely different and he told us she had quite a bit of fluid on her ears and an ear infection... we had no clue what the fluid part meant but just assumed it was part of the ear infection. They put her on antibiotics and that was the last we heard of it until her hearing test and the appt. with the ENT. Your ear drums are supposed to vibrate when sound enters and hers was completely flat. After a long wait she finally got her tubes at 16 months. She immediately started responding to her name at least 80% of the time, a week post tubes she started talking, gaining about 3 words a week, then came waving and saying hi and bye, and then finally pointing and other gestures. She progresses every day, and I do mean every day. She is in day care and does great. As a matter of face they just switched her to the toddler room which is a huge change. She went from 4 kids in the nursery to 12 in toddler, she has to sit at a regular table and chairs and feed herself, and at nap time instead of sleeping in cribs they sleep on cots... yea that is right, they are not contained and are expected to sleep the whole time. They eat lunch 30 minutes later than usual, and the nap starts at 12:45 instead of 12. They said she was one of the easiest transitions they have ever had. Not one tantrum, she played well with the other kids, ate great, and slept the whole time, they only had to lay her back down once before she went to sleep. So she made the change flawlessly. All of that being said I am still concerned about her. Below I am gonna list some things about her that confuse me. For the record I have already been in touch with Early Intervention. They are coming out Friday without Lily around to get all of our info and ask some questions. So that is already taking place.

Positive things about Lily
*Responds to her name pretty well. The only time she doesn't is if she is super busy playing and then sometimes she doesnt.
*Waves and says Hi and bye
*Has about 40 words she uses correctely.
*Will repeat a lot of words that we ask her to
*Points at things that interest her
*Loves to be read to, and depending on how she is feeling will point to things in the book when I ask her where they are
*Tries to Sing. She knows the words to the choruses of most of the Frozen songs
*Usually asks for things she wants for example "Juice" means she wants a drink, she will say "More" if she wants me to sing another song, and will say "Bite" when she wants anotehr bite of something. These are just a few.
*Feeds herself with a spoon.
*Loves food and will eat a wide variety of things, different textures and temperatures.
*Makes decent to good eye contact. Sometimes it is just decent. She is playing and we cant get her to look at us, and then sometimes its really good and she will make eye contact every few seconds, and a lot of times she will hold it for a minute or so.
*She likes to see our expressions when things happen.
*She is not much of a tantrum gal. She usually throws a decent one every few days and when she does they normally only last about 5 minutes.
*We can take her to restaurants and crowded places, she does pretty good at restaurants, and seems to flourish in big groups.. she looks to watch other people.
*She plays well with her 5 year old cousin, is very interested and tries to play with ours friends 3 month old, and her best friend at daycare is a boy that is her age. They play together.
*Last night I got her to throw a ball back and forth for a few minutes. She will build lego blocks and do them herself but also hand them to us to do it for her, she loves to be thrown around and play peak-a-boo.
*Is a great sleeper! She always sleeps around 11 hours a night, and takes about a 2 hour nap every day. Has since she was one.
*Doesn't have any issues with change or routine. We have changed her room around, the living room around, went on vacation where her sleep and eating schedule was thrown completely off and she was perfectly fine. We can give her a bath before bed every night or not one night if we don't have time and it doesn't bother her. The only part of her routine that if we don't do it she gets really upset is in the mornings. I always go get her with her milk. Take her to the living room and we cuddle. She gets mad if I don't have her milk or we don't cuddle in the mornings before I set her down. That is it though.
*She will give hugs if I ask, kisses, blow kisses, give high fives usually on command unless she doesn't feel like it.
*Always wants to be apart of what we are doing.
*Doesn't have any issues with Lights, Sounds, hot or cold, taste and textures.
*Has good joint communication. Shows us toys, brings us stuff if she needs helps, and brings us books if she wants them read to her.
*Imitaties us, sounds and hand motions and what not.

Things that raise red flags
*Even though her eye contact is pretty good, there are also times we couldn't get her to look at us if we were on fire. A lot of times she is busy, but sometimes she just won't look at us.
*Arm flaps.... She doesn't walk around doing this. She doesn't do it constantly, but she does do it when she gets excited or really likes something. Mostly when the TV is on.
*Hums/Moans... she started this when she was only 3 months. Her pediatrician seems to think she started it because she couldn't hear so she would hum to herself and it has just become habit. She really only does it when she eats and drinks, but there are times when she does it when she is tired, bored, or extremely focused on something.
*Doesn't follow directions well. Now I know that she has only been truly hearing for the past 4 months, but she isn't good at this. If I say "Lets go wake daddy" she will run to the bedroom to wake him, "Lets go the Papa's house " she will run to the door to leave. "Its time for a bath" she will run to the bathroom. "Are you hungry" she runs to the kitchen. She understands in these moments what I am telling her or asking her, but if I tell her bring me your shoes... she usualy doesn't do it. One time I did tell her to give her shoes that were in the floor and she did.
*Lacks pretend play. She does not pretend to talk on the phone, or do any sort of imaginative play with her dolls on her own. If I am holding her and one of her dolls and she is drinking her milk, I will hold the doll up and say "can I have some?" and she will put the milk in the dolls mouth, but only when I ask her to. She will also bounce a plush kitty cat around and say "meow meow".
*Doesn't look when I point at things a lot of times. It really depends. Sometimes she will and sometimes she won't. She really just figuring out the whole pointing thing though since her tubes so maybe this will improve.
*She won't say the word "no". If she doesn't want something or wants something to stop instead of saying know she will do this little scream. Its is not high pitched, and it doesn't continue for a while. It is very brief, and almost sounds like when you make the duck "quack" sound only she isn't saying quack.
*Isn't extremely lovey. She isn't a touch me not either unless she is tired. She likes to be held and cuddled in the morning, has no issues being held througout the day. Will give hugs and kisses when asked but not just because. She does not like when held in place and hugged haha, she pushes away. It doesn't upset her though.
*Looks at her hands. She mostly does this in the car on the way to daycare. Not usually at home.
*Finally... she likes spinning objects but aren't obssessed with them. She has toy cars and things that she plays with that she doesn't flip over and spin the wheels or anything. She plays with toys regularly. But things that are meant to spin she can get hung up on. For example, at a family gathering someone had a garden flower thing, it was rainbow colored, and it sticks out of the ground and spins. She would repetitively spin it, flaps her arms in excitement, and then spin it again. She did this for a good 20 minutes until she got bored. Then she ran off and played just like any other kid. It just seemed odd.

I just don't know. People tell me I am crazy for thinking there is something wrong. I just feel as though there is something off. Am I being silly? Does she just need time to grow? If she did have some form of autism would it be considered High Functioning? What are your thoughts? Thanks for all of your help.

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answers from Chicago on

This all sounds very normal to me. I think reading some developmental books put help you put it in perspective.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

She sounds fine to me...although I'm going to disagree with another answer you rec'd - autism can most definitely be diagnosed at this age. Follow up with early intervention and I think you'll get the answers you need.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Philadelphia on

This doesn't sound like Autism. It actually all sounds pretty normal for a 21month old who has recently started hearing. It sounds like she's making great progress and is a joy to have around.

That being said, sometimes a mother's gut feeling is there for a reason. She's probably fine, but it's good to get the Early Intervention eval done. At the very least, it might ease your own concerns.

When my son was 4, his pediatrician told me "Oh, he's just a very active little guy! Totally normal!". My gut told me otherwise. After extensive testing, which I pushed for, turns out he's on the Autism Spectrum (high functioning), has ADHD, Tourettes and, just last year, he finally got diagnosed with a severe Math Disability (duh, I'd been saying that for YEARS). So, no, he wasn't just a "very active little guy." He's 17 now, a Junior in HS, by the way. Doing just fine (except for math).

MY gut, from reading your post, tells me that your child is just fine, that nothing's wrong. But MY instincts don't matter in this case. YOURS do.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

This does not sound like autism.

Hearing issues can really throw kids for a developmental curve......I can tell you that my foster son had fluid build up and, at 4 months, was not responding to any sounds either. Because he was a micropreemie (born at 28 weeks, 2lbs 8oz) he had a host of other issues as well, so we were in early intervention day the day he was discharged from the hospital.

We met with ENT / audiology when he was around 6 months (his ear drums were also not vibrating during a conduction test) and he ended up having a ABR (auditory brainstem response) test the same day the tubes were inserted and his physical hearing tested normal, so that meant the tubes would do their job.

He was EIGHT months old when his tubs were inserted and it look him a little more than 3 months to get to "normal" responses to sounds and his surroundings.

If Lily did not have tubes and could not hear until 16 months..... that is 16 months of "habit" that her brain "mapped" in terms of how to respond to sounds and her environment. It has only been 5 months, so I would say since she is "getting there" that is a good sign. However, you are having to overcome the 16 months that her brain "learned" something else to do. That is what is second nature to her. I agree the humming is habit. My foster son "motorboated" with his lips (even when he could not hear) - same type of response as humming because it is introducing stimulation to their mouth and head.

Your Early Intervention team will work with him - they know all about what to do. If they think any further evaluation is necessary they will let you know and they will let you know exactly who to call.

As far you saying you "just feel as though there is something off. Am I being silly"...... NO you are not being silly. Having a child who starts missing milestones will make you hyper-vigilant as a parent. Keep tracking when she does what.... so that you can really objectively look at when she starts to achieve specific milestones. At some point you will need to relax or you will start to make her anxious.... but that will come as you work with the Early Intervention team.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Oh, it is so hard to relax when it’s your baby. I think much of what you’re concerned about it actually fairly normal, but I’ll still take it one at a time:

ATTENTION – Sometimes kids get very engrossed in what they are doing and really don’t hear you. But sometimes they really do hear you and just don’t care. Totally normal, but it dreives me crazy. I con’t stand being ignored! If I feel my son is doing that I repeat his name, count to 3, say his name again and if he still hasn’t responded I get to his level and look him in the eye. He’s caught on and if he starts to hear me counting he usually looks at me. It might take a little practice, but she’ll catch on. And if she doesn’t, then you can mention it to Early Intervention.

FLAPPING – You do hear this associated with Autism quite a bit. I’m fairly sure that what she is doing is age appropriate. I think it becomes a concern when it’s something they do all the time or if it’s associated with a different emotion. It is worth mentioning so that you get some feedback. But I don’t think you need to worry about this one.

HUMS/MOANS – What? You don’t do this? No, seriously, do you even sing or hum when you’re doing dishes or folding laundry or driving in the car and can’t find anything good on the radio? This is totally normal.

DIRECTIONS – Your expectations are too high. She’s catching on. She really is. Give her more time. You are just expecting way too much for a child her age.

PRETEND PLAY – There are lots and lots of ways to do pretend play. It’s great to introduce some ideas to her, like have the doll take a drink, but it’s ok if she doesn’t show an interest. Take another look at the ways she plays and see if you don’t see some pretend play going on. And even if you don’t, it’s ok for her to go through phases where she isn’t doing as much of that. She can’t learn every skill at the same time. She might be more focused on other skills right now.

POINTING – This is going to take a few years. She is looking at you and your hand. The concept of looking at your figure and trying to follow it to see where it’s pointing … that is way above her abilities. Most kids can’t do that before they are 3 or 4. It is just a very complex idea.

NO – She doesn’t use the word, “No,” and you’re complaining? Count your lucky stars! I got so tired of hearing that word! Ok, all kidding aside, it really is ok. But I understand that you want her to be able to communicate. You’ll just have to teach her to use it. I had to teach my boys to use the word, “Yes.” I would say, “Do you want some more milk? If you want some more milk, say, ‘Yes.’” And I would not give them more milk until they said, “Yes.” It takes time, but you just have to keep at it. “Do you want to stay in the bathtub? If you don’t want to stay in bathtub, say, ‘No.’” You’ll come up with some scenarios. You just have to keep at it.

ISN’T EXTREMELY LOVEY – Some kids/people aren’t. Let her be herself. It’s ok.

LOOKS AT HER HANDS – It’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with this.

SPINNING OBJECTS – Some kids like dolls. Some kids like cars. My 8 year old liked balls - now he likes Minecraft. My 5 year old used to LOVE cars. He still does, but now he’s more in to trains. Also, he’s beginning to like Minecraft.

Early Intervention is a great place to turn to right now. They will help you decide if any of your concerns are worth exploring further. I hope they are able to give you some piece of mind that much of what you are talking about is simply age appropriate behavior.

It’s so hard when it’s your baby, so you’re doing the right thing is talking to them. Hang in there! And really try to be open to what they are saying.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Actually she sounds like a perfectly normal 21 month old. Have her evaluated to ease your mind. Kids can be quirky.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

That does not sound like autism at all. She had a hearing problem, it will be a while before all the effects of that go away.

Since others are throwing out their reason for experience, I have four kids, all ADHD, one autism as well. My kids are in fact kids, sure there are things they did when they were little that your daughter is doing but that could be a diagnosis or that could be that your daughter is a child as well.

When my son with autism was around your daughter's age they did test his hearing to rule out hearing loss. Just because this is part of the process for figuring out if a child has autism doesn't make the inverse true. There was nothing wrong with my son's hearing which left autism as a possible cause of his behavior, which it ended up being. Had he had a hearing problem the process would have ended there.

Sort of like your child is limping, the doctors said it could be a sprained ankle or a broken bone. They do an xray and find it is a broken bone, you don't keep looking for the sprain.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You can't diagnose autism at this age. Your daughter has a hearing delay, and she's catching up. She's looking at her hands in the car? Because there isn't much else to do, probably. She's fascinated by spinning, colorful objects - good! Perfectly normal. She makes sounds instead of using a word? Typical, especially for a child with a speech delay due to a hearing problem. She plays with toys but doesn't do things you think she should, like spinning the wheels? No problem. There's no "right" way to play. She's not a super cuddly kid? Not every kid is. It's her personality, not a flaw. She may even be picking up on some of your worry and tension about her, and not find it all that relaxing or comforting to be held. But you contradict yourself because you say you cuddle regularly in the morning, and she depends on it.

She doesn't pretend-play by giving the doll milk, but she does do it when she bounces a kitty around saying "meow" - so that's pretend play! She doesn't follow directions and pick up her shoes when you ask? She's 21 months! My kid didn't do that, and he didn't have a hearing problem. This is 100% typical!

I'd say to keep up with recommended check-ups on the hearing, and leave her alone. She adjusts well to day care, she deals extremely well with changes in routine, she eats well and feeds herself, she loves people, she's growing and maturing….what else do you want? This is ideal!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I don't know if she is on the spectrum or not. But I WILL tell you as a mom who had a child with severe speech issues, you will REALLY need to get your child a speech and language evaluation once he is 24 months. Get started now to get an appointment after her birthday. The reason you want it after her birthday is because the criteria for what is expected changes a lot after 24 months and you want her evaluated using this criteria. DO NOT wait until she is 3 years old. She needs early intervention now. If she is not on the spectrum, getting her help will make a huge difference, especially by the time she gets to the school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

You are doing all the right things.

She sounds perfectly normal (for a child overcoming a hearing problem) to me. But I'm not an expert, a doctor, or her mother. So I have no "gut" to go by.

Could it be that you are overly concerned due to the delays with the hearing? Maybe.. could it be that there is more going on? Maybe. Could she be completely fine? Maybe.

Go forward with your EI visit, and do some reading and study on your own the developmental stages of early childhood. There is a very wide range of "normal".. and for a child with little or no hearing for the first 17 months of their lives, there is probably another range of "normal".

Try to relax a little, and continue to trust your gut, but do so armed with information. Read, and consult with the EI specialists. And enjoy your daughter. She sounds like a wonderful child!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

To me, it does not sound like she has autism.

Have you spoken with a audiologist about your concerns? Since she was deaf/hard-of-hearing for awhile without that being known, it may change how she is responding now. I don't know. That's not something I know much about. I know deafness doesn't affect development, but since you didn't know and were trying to interact with her as if she could hear you, it may have changed when some things should be expected.

Some of this just sounds like personality to me too. Not all kids are cuddly. Just love on her when she's in the mood and know that respecting her when she pushes away will help teach her good body safety. The spinning and excitement thing for about 20 minutes? That to me does not raise any flags.

But you know her best, so my suggestion is to talk with an audiologist and a behavioral specialist so you can have some tools to assess your concerns.

Good luck,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If your mommy instincts have out up a red flag, you did the right thing in calling early intervention. They will evaluate for free and then you'll know. And the provide free therapy if needed.

She sounds fine to me, but you know her and I don't.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Kristin C said it all perfectly. Your instincts are what matter here. If you think something's wrong, get help. Since you're doing that, you're on the right track. You're talking to people who can give you reassurance all is well or tell you there are signs of trouble.

In this situation, I wouldn't take the word of online moms that things are normal or not. I can't tell you how many people online discounted early concerns of mine about our son's behavior and we learned from specialists by the time he was in preschool that he had strong signs of a host of brain disorders, including ADHD and OCD (At almost 12, he has confirmed cases of everything suspected and more.). People can't fully grasp what you're experiencing and observing without having spent time with your child.

Don't try to diagnose yourself. Leave it to the specialists and run with whatever advice they give you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You're a worried mom, that's ok.

I think she needs to catch up and regroup from the hearing delay. You could look into early intervention if she has trouble re-adjusting, and get an assessment before she turns 4.

There's something called Sensory Processing Disorder - may be related to the hearing issues. Might be worth asking about.

My son's on the autism spectrum, diagnosed at 4. He's 7 now and doing very well. I created a website with lots of resources - feel free to connect with me if you like.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My son has Autism and is high functioning. I would say that some of the things your are mentioning could be red flags but her world has changed drastically in the last 4 months. Imagine living in a world where everything around you was just muffled noise, no real sounds, nothing you could make out. Then imaging suddenly someone switches everything and you hear EVERYTHING. My guess is that at times she has a bit of overload from all the noise around her and her way of dealing is to pull in and close off.

I will admit that the humming/moaning kind of makes me wonder. My son has a noise he makes with his mouth when he is really focused on things and sometimes when he's bored. He doesn't even seem to know he's doing it. Everyone in the family, including his little brother, have to tell him to stop.

I think I would continue to watch her but also give her some time to adjust to her new world.

Good Luck,


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Everything you're concerned about probably stems from lack of hearing.
Talk to your doctor or her ENT.
You'll have a 2 year well child visit coming up soon, right?
We are not doctors.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

She was an unhearing child. She is going to be different for a while. She will become more like you expect as she is around other kids and grows up.

She sounds so normal normal normal normal as far as most everything you said.

Please go to and sign up to get the daily, weekly, and monthly emails that say things like "Your child is XX months old this week and you can expect to see ZZZZ and SSSSSSS and LLLLL.

In 99% of the kids they are doing just that thing.

BTW, some kids never crawl, some adults have to learn how to crawl so their brains can make that wiring connection.....she is fine as far as crawling late...

Most child care centers move the babies up to the toddler room as soon as they turn 1. They start sleeping the babies on cots at about 10.5-11 months so they will be used to cots when they move up. By this age they are also down to 1 nap per day.

When they move to the toddler room they are prepared for cots and 1 nap per day and feeding themselves because the baby room teachers prepared them.

She did well because she was ready. She sounds like a delightful child.

I will say. If you think something is wrong it might be. Please take it one day at a time. The arm flapping is something that can be just excitement that she can't hold in. It can be a sign of something too.

Pretend play is beyond her cognitive abilities right now. What you're expecting is more 2 and 3 year old play. She is right on the mark for a lot of her milestones and maybe ahead a bit in some.

This is the way kids grow. They excel in some areas and leap ahead. Other areas they just don't get it until they're older.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

You are doing the right thing by contacting EI. They will be able to give you a better of idea of her situation tat we can.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Just wanted to add that my husband and one of my sons both hum at times. Both when they are thinking hard, both when they are eating something they enjoy, and my son when he is cranky-tired. Both are "neurotypical."

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