How Do You Determine If a Child Has Autism

Updated on June 21, 2011
T.A. asks from Lake Oswego, OR
37 answers

I currently have a 3 1/2 year old and sometimes I really question if he has autism. I have asked the doctor and they said to "wait and see".

Some of his symptoms:
* He is kind of a loner. He does play with his younger brother but in many cases he would rather play alone.
* When he is in trouble he laughs and smiles
* He refuses to learn to draw shapes, he only wants to scribble
* often times we find him staring off into space

He is really smart, he knows shapes, colors, and where certain places, and he associates buildings with people (like daddy's work, he knows what the logo is and when he sees it even on tv he says,"that's my daddy's work".)

I know its important to be aware of autism, my cousin is autistic. I want to make sure I can help him develop to the best of my abilities.

So can I have some advice..could his symptoms be a sign of autism? I would rather be aware of it then just pass it off and not help him in every way possible. PLEASE HELP!

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answers from Augusta on

If those are his only "symptoms" then he sounds like a normal 3 1/2 yr old.
if you are really worried take him and have him evaluated.

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answers from Seattle on

Individually none of those symptoms means autism. I don't know about the combination. My daughter who is 4 1/2 still doesn't like to draw shapes.
The dr should have a CHAT screening form for autism. Maybe you can find one similar for parent screening.
Many school systems will have childfind screenings to identify kids who need additional help (autism, speech, etc) and this should be for kids 3 and over. look into services or help for specific needs- he may not need autism treatment but other symptoms may be helpful.

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answers from New York on

I am responding in part to some of the posts below. Before I say anything else, though, I want to be very clear that I respect the experiences of every single person who has posted. My experience, and my son's experiences, haven't necessarily reflected those described below. That doesn't make your experience any less valid. But mine may be relevant as well.

Okay. My son has some Asperger's symptoms, but not enough to qualify for a diagnosis. It's like he's got one foot in the Asperger's spectrum and one foot out of it. And (again, this is just our experience), our encounters with the whole diagnostic apparatus have been a really mixed bag. Toward the end of Diagnosis Land, we were fortunate enough to encounter one doctor who I felt really listened to me and really paid attention to my son. However, we also encountered people who were unprofessional, insensitive, or simply well-intentioned-yet-wrong along the way.

Compared to Early Intervention and special ed, my son did MUCH better in a Montessori classroom where the teacher just said, straight up, "He's gifted and he's sensitive. Those are GOOD qualities. We'll just work on some coping skills over the year." After two years of Montessori, my son went from being deathly afraid of other children, water, wind, and sand, to being afraid of ... none of the above. He has fantastic friendships. He's absolutely loves the beach. There are a few vestigial issues (handwriting not great, bit of a drama queen during hairwashes and sunscreen application), but SO WHAT?

What I personally believe is this: Asperger's is real, but there are also cases where it's over-diagnosed. And overall, it's over-pathologized up the wazoo. I mean, Albert Einstein, who didn't speak until he was 4, would have almost certainly been diagnosed as somewhere on the spectrum. But is that what we need, to be pathologizing the next generation of Einsteins??? I don't deny that people with Asperger's and mild autism are different and often need help coping, but I'm not comfortable with the way people react when a child is labeled with a big, bad "Syndrome." I prefer my own term for it: Rocket Scientist Personality Type.

So, here's what I recommend. Get every evaluation you reasonably can. Be open to any number of possibilities. But if what people say doesn't reflect what you see in your son, don't be too quick to defer to their authority. Not everyone gets it right, and you, as the parent, are the only person in a position to say "This just isn't clicking for me. I think we need to keep looking." I recommend a book called Raising Blaise by Debra Ginsberg, a memoir that says a lot of what I'm trying to say, but much, much, much more beautifully.

Best wishes,


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answers from Atlanta on

He sounds like a very normal 3 year old! He laughs and smiles when he's in trouble? I laugh whenever I get nervous, maybe he is the same way. Most 3 year olds do not play with others, 3 yrs is more of an independant stage when it comes to playing. 3 years old is pretty young for sitting down drawing shapes...he's probably just really learning how to hold a crayon good. Staring off into space is also known as daydreaming. Please do not lable your child. If there are other "symptoms" get another opinion but trying to get people to diagnos him on a mom's website will just add to your confusion as none of us know your child.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

As a mom of an autistic child, you know when your gut starts bugging you that something might not be quite right. My prayers are with you that your child is NOT autistic, but NEVER accept an answer from a pediatrician of "wait and see", especially when it comes to autism. The earlier you get intervention, the better the outcome later in life. If you sense something may not be right, my advice to you is to demand a referral (if needed) from your doc and get him into a child psychologist for an evalutation. It's better to know now vs. later. Good luck!!

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answers from Hartford on

If you're only going by those few descriptors then I feel confident that your son does not have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There are many, many signs and symptoms and you would have noticed them from a very, very early age and would have had continued concerns throughout his entire life. There would be global developmental delays, social delays, problems with eye contact, physical and verbal stimming, likely additional disorders associated with Autism such as Sensory Processing Disorder, gastric disorders and poor gut health, anxiety disorder, sleep disturbances, and so much more. These issues would be chronic and he would not grow out of them. They rely heavily on routines and schedules. It's extremely difficult to parent a child with ASD. It's not just a passing, "Hmmm, I wonder if my child has ASD?"

This link is from the CDC/Center for Disease Control and they have a pretty comprehensive layman's list of signs and symptoms to look out for.

There's much more on that link but here's the bulleted list they have:

A person with an ASD might:

Not respond to their name by 12 months of age
Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
Not play "pretend" games (pretend to "feed" a doll) by 18 months
Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
Have delayed speech and language skills
Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
Give unrelated answers to questions
Get upset by minor changes
Have obsessive interests
Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

Social Skills

Photo: boySocial issues are one of the most common symptoms in all of the types of ASD. People with an ASD do not have just social “difficulties” like shyness. The social issues they have cause serious problems in everyday life.

Examples of social issues related to ASDs:

Does not respond to name by 12 months of age
Avoids eye-contact
Prefers to play alone
Does not share interests with others
Only interacts to achieve a desired goal
Has flat or inappropriate facial expressions
Does not understand personal space boundaries
Avoids or resists physical contact
Is not comforted by others during distress
Has trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about own feelings


Each person with an ASD has different communication skills. Some people can speak well. Others can’t speak at all or only very little. About 40% of children with an ASD do not talk at all. About 25%–30% of children with an ASD have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them.1 Others might speak, but not until later in childhood.

Examples of communication issues related to ASDs:

Delayed speech and language skills
Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
Reverses pronouns (e.g., says “me” instead of “I”)
Gives unrelated answers to questions
Does not point or respond to pointing
Uses few or no gestures (e.g., does not wave goodbye)
Talks in a flat, robot-like, or sing-song voice
Does not pretend in play (e.g., does not pretend to “feed” a doll)
Does not understand jokes, sarcasm, or teasing

Unusual Interests and Behaviors

Many people with an ASD have unusual interest or behaviors.

Examples of unusual interests and behaviors related to ASDs:

Lines up toys or other objects
Plays with toys the same way every time
Likes parts of objects (e.g., wheels)
Is very organized
Gets upset by minor changes
Has obsessive interests
Has to follow certain routines
Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles

Other Symptoms

Some people with an ASD have other symptoms. These might include:

Hyperactivity (very active)
Impulsivity (acting without thinking)
Short attention span
Causing self injury
Temper tantrums
Unusual eating and sleeping habits
Unusual mood or emotional reactions
Lack of fear or more fear than expected
Unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

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answers from Louisville on

I understand that you are concerned, especially with a relative who IS autistic. But the truth is, your son isn't displaying any unusual behavior for a three year old. Just because he smiles and laughs when he's in trouble (not unusual behavior, believe me!) and refuses to draw what you want him to draw (also not unusual, especially for the age) doesn't mean that he has underlying mental or medical issues. It's important, as a parent, to be able to take a deep breath and relax about your child's issues. Even if there's something there. What would you do differently with an official label? You would continue to work with him, teaching and guiding him in social situations, disciplining him to teach boundaries, and getting him whatever additional help he needs (speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc.).

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answers from San Antonio on

I'm appalled at and offended Mommy B's answer and cavalier attitude. Especially since she has asked an autism question herself. Mommy B how can you still ask "what would you do differently" when you have already been told, several times, by moms w/ autistic kids, answering your autism question, that early diagnoses and intervention is needed. How can you think that there's a magic age a child would be "old enough" or "too young" to be diagnosed?

Autism is real. And the sooner the child is diagnosed the better. It's amazing what early intervention can do for a child on the spectrum. The "wait and see attitude" is detrimental to the child needing help/services.

My son had very poor gross motor function as a baby. He didn't crawl, didn't sit up. My pediatrician recommended physical therapy at 18 months through the First 5 program here in CA. For a year she worked w/ my son and she noticed "odd" behaviors, that I as a first time mom, I didn't recognize. We had my son evaluated and he was on the spectrum with sensory processing disorder. She advocated for me to get OT, speech therapy, and sensory processing therapy through the regional center in my area. While the whole time my pediatrician said my son was fine. My pediatrician dismissed my concerns that my son was autistic - simply because he looked her in eyes when she called his name, SERIOUSLY!!?? She spent 15 minutes with him and dismissed my concerns. But his therapist spent several hours a week with him for a year and thank God - knew better!

Anyhow - my son is 4 1/2 years old now. He's received 2 1/2 years of therapy and has attended special ed pre-school through our school district.

When he was was diagnosed he was terrified of social situations, of any person approaching him or looking at him. He screamed and cried even when the therapist came to our home - the entire year he did this even though he knew her. He didn't like to touch anything, everything was too sensitive for him. He didn't like loud sounds. He would line up his toys and stare at them. He would repeat phrases over and over. Yet - he would look you in the eye, he spoke well, he was happy.

Now - through early intervention, he is able to touch sand, able to get his hands dirty, able to tolerate loud noises (still dislikes the air dryers in bathrooms), loves to socialize, and no longer lines things up like he did.

He still has gross motor issues, fine motor issues, is a very picky eater, is repulsed by certain smells, and has to ALWAYS wear socks, he can not be bare foot or he freaks out. He transitions from one place or activity to another without incident now too.

I can't image how he would be now without the early intervention. He still has issues, but me being aware of them and us working on them will help him learn how to cope.

So to those of you who say "wait and see" or to Mommy B who doesn't believe in putting a label on "it" or it's just a weird quirk - you should be ashamed of yourself!!! Autism spectrum disorder is REAL.

As a mom - you KNOW in your gut when something isn't right. You should advocate for your child, especially when it's a spectrum disorder. Otherwise you would waste valuable time in helping your child if they need it.

Do you what you need to do to get the answer - go through the county to get your child assessed. In California the services for at home & OT therapy end at 3 years old and then they are passed to the school system. At the advice of others posting look into services in your area.

Blessings to you T. A. {{HUGS}}

My son also stared into space. He was having petite-mal seizures. NOT FROM LACK of sleep as someone mentioned below. His little brain was getting overwhelmed at all the sensory input around him and he would just shut off for a few seconds. We had him tested w/ an MRI and had his brain waves tested, forgot what this test is called. Had to monitor him for a week, was awful. But the neurologist said that the brain looked good and not to be concerned. The looking out into space still happens, but not as frequent as it used to and it doesn't last as long as it use to.

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answers from Kansas City on

Austim can be diagnosed as early as 18 mos. No pediatrician should be telling you "wait and see' if there is suspected ASD. Aspergers tends to be diagnosed later in life, as symptoms are not as severe and tend to be more socially related. The symptoms you describe do not alone indicate autism. Many children that age show the behaviors. I agree that you will know in your gut that something is not quite right with your child. To those who don't like the "label" of autism. There is a LOT you would do differently if your child had austim vs just being a bit different. There are interventions that can help your child, and the earlier they recieve them, the better. It's not about having a label, it's about knowing what your child needs and why and pursuing that to the best of your ability. You can also educate yourself on autism and ways to help your child that you might not know or understand when raising typical children.
Go with your gut, good luck, and if he has a diagnosis, seach out intervention asap.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Call your local health department and ask them if they do any evaluations. We had our 4 year old evaluated and it showed he probably has Sensory Integration Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder. It was very easy and they did it by giving his preschool teachers and us questionnaires.

Otherwise contact a school psychologist and ask them about observation and evaluations.

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answers from New York on

Kids are quirky! I think in todays world everyone is quick to label and what you do not want to do is label him if he is just a quirky kid. Could he have
some learning disability, possibly. He does not sound autistic.

In the "olden" days an autistic child was one that sat in a corner, did not relate to anyone at all, had repetitive behaviors, no communication at all.
Somewhere along the line, someone decided that any odd behavior,
is deemed autistic. So what do I think, I think he sounds like a quirky 3 1/2
year with possible learning issues. Good luck.

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answers from New York on

You don't make that determination. A medical professional who specializes in autism makes this determination, does the testing and diagnosis if necessary. Ask your pediatrician for a referral! Good luck.

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answers from Norfolk on

You can request he be evaluated by developmental experts. Contact your local school system for information on how to get the process initiated.

Try googling the M-CHAT. That was what sent my son down the path to a diagnosis. Take the test and read about the results. It may give you some piece of mind to know more about the criteria before you proceed.

Good luck.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Does he bang his head? Does he repeat phrases over and over? Does he have any obsessions (things he is super interested in to the exclusion of everything else)? These are pretty clear indicators of autism in most cases.

Most of what you describe can be within the range of normal for a boy his age. He may be having some issues with exhibiting the most appropriate response, but it really doesn't strike me as symptoms of autism. It sounds like he is a strong-willed child (most people call it "stubborn"), which can be a challenge all of its own, but something that can be worked with and shaped to be a positive quality. (My kids are strong willed, and now that my oldest is going into Jr High, I'm glad that she isn't swayed a lot by peer pressure)

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answers from Austin on

My main touchstone is the eye contact. Does he look you in the eyes when you speak with him or when he speaks with you?

Or does he look around you? I do not mean when he is busy playing eating etc.. but just when you 2 are speaking with each other.

This is not scientific, but any time, I have ever seen a newborn or nonverbal child, they generally will look at your face/eyes when you speak with them.

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answers from Washington DC on

It's possible he's just gifted. My daughter (who is almost 10) was just like that at age 3. She can still be somewhat of a loner. As it turns out she is just very bright and definitely thinks a lot differently than most other kids. We had the opportunity to send her to a gifted school starting in the 3rd grade (we chose not to, but that's a whole different story). Anyway, if it's really bothering you I would get him evaluated. But I just wanted to point out one of the possibilities. Good luck to you.

PS - something interesting happened to us over the weekend. We were at a park and my daughter met a girl (1 year younger than her) who attends this gifted school. They became FAST friends - something my daughter just doesn't do. I think they "understood" each other. It was neat to see.

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answers from Minneapolis on

The only way to know is to have him evaluated by a professional psychologist who specializes in Autism. You could contact such people and ask how old a child needs to be before they would conduct a full evaluation. A full evaluation should take several hours and involve multiple types of tests.

But, from what you describe of your son, I think your doctor's advice makes sense. It is not unusual for a child to like to play alone, to not want to draw what you want him to draw, etc. You may just need to "wait and see".

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answers from Minneapolis on

If you have concerns about him, seek a professional evaluation. Find a developmental pediatrician. Even if it is not autism, they may find some other things that could be assisted with some occupational therapy (fine motor development, etc. ) that will help better prepare him for a school setting. Our son doesn't have autism but has Sensory Processing Disorder and fine motor delays. I am so happy we sought a diagnosis when he was 3.5 and got some help for him. Starting school would have been a nightmare otherwise.


answers from St. Louis on

It really is tricky. Educators and doctors were saying Andy was autistic when he was a young as your son. I refused to allow a diagnosis because kids at that age are so in flux. A child can be one way one day and completely different the next. He was diagnosed PDD when he was six. PDD is autism spectrum.

From my experience nothing you have listed sounds Autistic. Perhaps ADD but not Autistic.

Regardless of what he may be he is too young to be labeled yet.

Edit: Ack! no, not the eye contact! That is a marker of anything spectrum which includes ADD. I am not Autistic and I had to teach myself to always make eye contact so people could not tell I am ADD.



answers from Seattle on

Trust your gut. Austism spectrum is very wide. My daughter was diagnosed with aspergers at 4.5. She is high functioning. Speaks two languages, has strong language skills, makes eye contact, engages other people. She looks like a "typical" 4 year old. Aspergers looks much different than the classic autism symptoms everyone talks about such as spinning objects, hand flapping, etc. I know other kids on the spectrum and they don't do these things. Children on the spectrum also tend to have sensory disorders. Doesn't like loud noises, crowded busy places, being touched, seams in socks, etc. My daughter was very sensitive all the time. Cried easily over trivial things. We just called her sensitive. Our pediatrician didn't see anything wrong and told us to read some book about introverted children. What made us do our own research was observing her in preschool. She behaved differently than her peers. She had anxiety, fear, and misunderstood the actions of others. She has incorrect assumptions about the intentions of others. With adults she is fine, but with other children, it's a different story. At home, it's hard to see the symptoms. My daughter does great with us and adults. With other children, she has great difficulty and prefers to play alone. Not because she wants to, because she doesn't know how to play with other children, so avoids it. A lot of times, these kids will play with other kids only if they control the play, and the other kid does what they say. If not, it messes everything up and they get upset. There is lack of flexibility.

Go with your gut. You know your child best. We always thought there was something different with our child. Now we know what it is and can help her with therapy such as occupational therapy for gross/fine motor skills, speech to work on emotions and empathy.

Like I said, aspergers looks very different than those classic symptoms. They are very high functioning. Sensory disorder is very common as well.
My daughter has strong sense of smell , which affects what she eats. Also, can't have bits in food.

I'm writing on my phone and unable to edit what I wrote above. So, sorry if my thoughts are disjointed. A good book to learn about aspergers is Tony attwood, I think it's called the complete guide to aspergers.

Anyway, follow your gut. You know him best.



answers from Portland on

I agree with the moms who recommend early diagnosis and treatment. I was just listening to a great podcost on NPR's Science Friday and they were interviewing three autism researchers. They really emphasized how important early intervention was to give an autistic kid the tools to thrive. They were talking about behavioral therapies for the intervention, not drugs. If you are concerned, trust your gut, and have your child evaluated. Moms really are spectacularly attuned to when something isn't quite right.


answers from Boston on

Not sure if those are signs of autism, but he may fall into the spectrum of autistic behaviors. I know that making eye contact with others, especially when talked to or socializing with others is one of the indicators to watch out for. My son was thought to have autistic characteristics-not looking in the eye, trouble with transition, playing by self/ritualistic play, too much focus on one specific thing,etc. However, after having him evaluated, and placed in a autistic preschool program( for observation), he was able to then progress in those specific characteristics. He has a delay in both speech and language, as well as motor skills/sensory.He was then placed on an IEP. He is now 7, and doing well in first grade. I would have him evaluated , as well as talk with your pediatrician about your concerns. She may be able to refer you somewhere. Actually, your son sounds alot like mine did at that age. If your school department has an early intervention or child outreach program, I would contact them for an evaluation. He is over three years old, and it is a easy thing to do. It might set your mind at ease, like it did mine.

Although, working in the mental health field, I can certainly tell you that their is nothing wrong with seeking help and answers. In this day and age it is hard for any parent to not worry that their child has this or that. I am very big on not giving anyone a label or stigma attached to them. I believe in uniqueness, individualism, and creativity. Someone may be schizophrenic, but that shouldn't define who they are as a person.



answers from Chicago on

Find another doctor willing to listen to your concerns. The wait-and-see approach can delay necessary treatments, if your son does have autism. I agree with, but you can also call your local Easter Seals for help as well.



answers from Portland on

3 1/2 is still early for actual drawing of shapes. My son is almost 4 and many of his classmates are already 4 and they still scribble. If the teacher or myself sit with him or others in the class and show them how to draw a shape and have it repeated, they can do it. Their fine motor skills in holding a pencil or crayon are still being worked on. If by 4 1/2 he still isn't able to draw some shapes, I'd look into it.

My son does play with his sister, but they like different games and toys, so he often prefers to play by himself.

If he is staring off into space, he may be lacking in sleep, he may just be thinking. I'd start by trying to get an extra hour of sleep for him. Start by putting him to bed 10-15 min. earlier and work up to an hour. See if that helps. Nutrition can also add to the lack of focus, make sure he isn't hungry and has well balanced snacks and meals throughout the day (not that you aren't-just suggestions to think about.)

How is his speech? At the 2 yr check up we had to answer a questionaire at our docs office. It asked questions that helped to determine if there was a concern for autism. If you didn't do this, then, maybe there is one online that you could fill out, or ask your pediatrician for a copy.

He is working on prereading skills when he recognizes logos while out and about and when advertised. This is big and he sounds like he is on track with other things, like shapes, colors, etc. How about letters and numbers. Work on the letters of his name and of the names of family members, brother's, Mommy and Daddy (not your actual names to start). In word, I found a font that showed the upper and lower case letters the way we write them. I chose a font size that would allow me to put all of the upper case letters on one page. Did the same for lower case letters. We put our magnet letters in a bag and my ds drew one out at a time and matched it to one on his paper. (I laminated our with a piece of construction paper in between the upper and lower case letters and he would cross each letter off with a crayon when it was drawn.) For each letter he drew out of the bag, I said the letter. Once he started recognizing the letters some on his own, I would have him say the ones he knew. We did this for both upper and lower case letters and I did it for numbers, too. He loved this game and it only took 5-10 minutes to play.

I think he is probably on track for what you described. Some kids are quieter and prefer to play alone more often. Try just playing some short educational games with him and teaching him how to copy a shape that you draw. He will probably like spending time with you one on one and if you play short games, he can still go do something on his own afterward.



answers from Appleton on

Hi T.:
My granddaugher is autistic. Do some reasearch online has great resourses as do other websites. Look into the Headstart program in your area. It will be a combined effort of your ped, the schools and a child psycholgist. Autisim is now considered to have such a wide spectrum it's difficult to say what to look for.
Take heart knowing that with early intervention and a lot of support Autistics can lead fairly normal lives. Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Dan Ackroyd all have Aspergers Syndrom and Ackroyd has Tourettes also.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I really have no experience with autism except for a handful of students here and there. When I was doing day-to-day subbing in few different school districts, there were many times that I was placed in regular classrooms and special needs classrooms and the range of children that had autism was great. There were some kids that clearly had some kind of disability but then there were others that functioned in a regular classroom very well, but maybe they had L. quirks (who doesn't!). I sometimes later found out that some kids had autism and I would never have known! I am just telling you this because your son's symptoms may be nothing, or maybe it may be a mild form of autism (sorry if I'm not using correct wording) and your son will be high functioning. The main thing is, is that I am very surprised that your pediatrician said to wait and see! As and educator, early intervention is the best thing you can do for a child. I definitely agree with Mindy T. that you should just ask your pediatrician for a referral or contact your local children's hospital to see what kind of testing they offer. Good luck!



answers from Portland on

You are right to feel concerned. Early intervention is so important, and can really be life-changing for your son. The issues you mention could be clues to an autism diagnosis. Or, another health issue ( petit-mal siezures?) Any parent can call yur school district's educational service district and request an evaluation for early intervention services. I think any time your child is beyond age 2 or 18 months? Much earlier than conventional school age. Our son was evaluated by Multnomah ESD about ten years ago now. What i really appreciated was that the staff that saw him was so experienced, had seen so many kids with such a wide spectrum of variations, that they knew exactly which end of the spectrum of kid quirks my child was part of, and how his particular quirks would prove to affect his future academic and social development, the biggest challenges in autism. Our naturopath suggested that our son would grow out of his biting, tantrums, obsessiveness, etc, focusing on the robust health of his body, but not having experienced in such detail the life-changing seriousness of a differently functioning mind over many years.

So, call your ESD. If they seem to be very conservative about giving a diagnosis, as of course they must then provide services to your son, and all schools are tight with money these days, trust your gut. You can take him to OHSU Developmental center, but be prepared to spend $3-5,000, none of which our private insurance would pay for, as autism is "just a mental illness." It sounds like you are a busy mom, but get help and keep on it! The sooner you get help, the better off your son will be developmentally! good luck!



answers from Portland on

My son is diagnosed as PDD-NOS. There was not a lot of huge warning signs for him. We could have even just "different" and "he will grow out of it". We didn't. Fortunately for us we had doctors that did see his "differences" as concerning and had him tested for autism as well as other developmental delays. He was diagnosed by age 2. I have to say that at first I felt like it was too early to put a "label" on him. But now at age 4 1/2 I have to say I am thankful for it. He has recieved speech therapy, and he goes to a special preschool. I see improvements in my son everyday. He has come so far since his diagnosis and I am confident in his future now instead of terrified. I would call the early intervention program in your area and have him tested. There is absolutly nothing to lose in doing this. At the very least you can learn some interesting things about your child trough the testing. Good luck.



answers from Syracuse on

sharon b. child has similar symptoms as my grandson--aspergers........highly intelligent,does well with adults........can't hug him---and so on.........finally found an excellent dr.---that helps tremdously......some famil members still say 'he'll grow out of it'------if you live with a child like this,you know it is not something he'll grow out of luck to you----it is a long haul some days!



answers from Washington DC on

You can ask a specialist.

I do think that there's actually too much talk about autism. It is making too many parents worried and some may think it is a "problem" to have a "different" personality. Autism has been around forever, it just never had a label. I know some children labeled as "autistic". I'm personally not saying there's anything different from them and kids that used to be labeled "nerds" or "geeks", "difficult" or a "thinker", "outsider", a "square" etc. It is just that, now, there's a label that covers all of that area. ...and like I said, I know several autistic kids, so I'm not dismissing it or saying they aren't important or anything like that- just that people are so concerned about the autism label as if it changes something that already was there with your child. It doesn't change anything. But if you are curious, you can ask a specialist. Just my opinion- based on early childhood psych classes and personal experience.

I'm just anti-label in general, unless it is something that seriously should be medicated like epilepsy, schitzophrenia, or a debilitating health issue. Otherwise, what would you do differently if your child was labeled "autistic" vs. the fact that he's labeled "different"? ...and by the way, I'm with everyone that says hes a bit too young to tell. Toddlers/preschoolers are so dang quirky anyways.



answers from Seattle on

I would get him assessed at an autism center. Our son was recently diagnosed at the age of 5 and we knew something was up at age 3. He had similar symptoms and some additional ones such as one off ticks (blinking a certain way, stretching a certain way) they come and go but were sefinitely ticks. He also repeated movie lines non stop for awhile. Socially he has a difficult time interacting and I would say his only "friends" are the friends that we have over for play dates. He plays well with his younger 2 siblings that are twins. There are many facets to autism and one doesn't look like ay other exactly. My son has been doing amazing since we know now how to support him. He is in regular kindergarten and has a great IEP team at school.

I wish you well.


answers from San Francisco on

By professional evaluation.


answers from Albany on

At 3 1/2 he is probably old enough for an evaluation. Ask your regular ped for a referral to a Developmental Pediatritian and go from there. Until then, why fret?
If he has some issues, you can then address them. He can also be evaluated by your school district to see if he qualifies for whatever their early intervention program is, but they cannot really diagnosis him.

Enjoy him!



answers from New York on

If those are his only "symptoms" it doesnt sound like he has autism. My son only scribbled at 3-4 and was great with playing alone and was a bit obssessed with cars. Now he has many interests, draws well and if very social. I assume your son makes eye contact with you or you would have mentioned that concern. Does he play with you? does he have the opportunity to play with other kids (not just brother) and what does he do then ? Can you have a conversation with him? Maybe you have more info or more concerns?



answers from Pittsburgh on

I am by NO means a source of any knowledge on autism. I just want to say that if it is only what you describe then I would doubt it. My son scribbled at that age was only when he hit K that he would actually draw something that resembled something. I just don't think he liked to color. Kind of the same way with my other son now that I think about it. And many kids are loners...its just how they are built. I am in total agreement with Julia N's post. The behaviors she describes are what I have always heard are your warning signs. Your son really seems in the normal range.


answers from Eugene on

You call the University of Oregon in Eugene. They have the best training center and diagnosis center for autism in the western United States.
You live in Oregon but people come from all over the world to the center for help raising their autism spectrum children.
Your son if he has a form of autism has asperbers which is high intelligence and comprehension and poor social skill.
The brain develops as a child matures and so it is likely he will enter the "normal" society as he gets older. However, he will require specialized training. And so will you and your family to learn how to cope with him and help him with his worldview.

Next question: Wrong Diagnosis, Is That Possible? for a 3 Yo Toddler -Autism Spectrum PDD NOS?