Recognising Early Red Flags for Autism

Recognising Early Red Flags for Autism

By Desiree Frigenti – Senior Paediatric Physiotherapist & Director of Ocean Kids Health.

There is so much literature about Autism it can be overwhelming. Recognizing early red flags for autism can be crucial for early intervention and support. It’s important to note that every child is unique, and not all children with autism will exhibit the same signs or at the same age. However, there are some common early red flags that parents and caregivers can watch for:

  1. Lack of Eye Contact: Infants typically make eye contact with their caregivers, but a child with autism may avoid or have limited eye contact and facial expressions.
  2. Delayed Speech or Language: Many children with autism may have delayed or limited speech development. They might not babble as much, and their language skills may develop more slowly than expected.
  3. Limited Social Interaction: Children with autism may not engage in social interactions as expected. They may not respond to their name, show interest in others, or share emotions. They do not wave or point and generating smiles can be challenging. Children with autism have limited babbling, cooing, or making sounds.
  4. Repetitive Behaviours: Some children with autism exhibit repetitive behaviours, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or repetitive play with objects. They spend unusually long periods repeating an action such as looking at their hands, rolling an object, sorting toys, lying on the floor to view things at different angles, These behaviours can be a red flag.
  5. Difficulty with Changes: Children with autism may have a strong preference for routines and may become upset or anxious when routines are disrupted.
  6. Sensory Sensitivities: Some children with autism may have sensory sensitivities, being overly sensitive or under-sensitive to sensory stimuli like lights, sounds, or textures. Some children with autism need constant physical contact for sensory regulation
  7. Lack of Pretend Play: Pretend or imaginative play can be limited in children with autism. They may not engage in typical pretend play activities like pretending to cook or have tea parties
  8. Difficulty with Social Communication: Children with autism might struggle with understanding nonverbal communication cues, like facial expressions or gestures. They may also have difficulty in holding a conversation or engaging in back-and-forth interactions.
  9. Unusual Fixations: Some children with autism may become fixated on specific topics or objects and may talk about them obsessively.
  10. Delayed Motor Skills: Some children with autism may have delayed motor skills development, like crawling, walking, or using fine motor skills like holding a crayon.

It’s important to remember that these signs are not definitive proof of autism but can be early indicators that prompt further evaluation. If you notice these red flags or have concerns about your child’s development, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a Paediatrician.

An early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve outcomes for children with autism. Early intervention services, such as Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Behavioural Therapy, can help children with autism develop essential skills and thrive.


Desiree Frigenti
Senior Physiotherapist | Director
Ocean Kids Health

Our Ocean Kids Health team are here to help you and your child thrive!