Common Indicators of Autism in Toddlers

Updated: January 16, 2024 | Published:

Autism is a neurodivergence that you can begin seeing signs of when a child is still a baby. However, many of the clearest signs of autism appear when a child reaches toddler age, or when they start attending preschool. By learning about the key signs of autism in a toddler, you’ll ensure you’re giving your child all the support they need to thrive and develop key skills. Here are a few of the most common indicators of autism in toddlers, along with actions to take if you see them in your child.

Socializing and Communication

Common Indicators of Autism in Toddlers

Toddlers who have autism typically show difficulty with socializing and communication. Some key signs of this include not making eye contact, having an unusual speech pattern, or lacking the desire to cuddle or show affection for others. Similarly, children with autism often avoid social situations and prefer playing alone, with limitations on the type of activities they enjoy. 

For example, many young children with autism struggle with imaginative play, focusing on activities that only involve what they can physically see and touch. Another way that this sign can manifest is by a child becoming exceptionally attached to a specific person or group of people whom they’re very familiar with.


Another common indicator of autism in toddlers is abnormal behaviors, such as repetitive movements like rocking, spinning, or shaking their hands. Refusing to eat specific foods is a key sign of this, as it often conveys sensory issues related to food. Other behavioral signs of autism in toddlers include resistance to changes in their routine or environment, obsessive interests in particular toys, and the predisposition to becoming intensely stressed by specific noises and textures.

Skills Development

You can also gauge whether a child might have autism by paying attention to their skills development. Many children with autism show signs of delayed development when they reach toddler age, such as not speaking in full sentences or being unable to perform tasks like brushing their teeth or bathing themselves without help. Similarly, children with autism often develop their social skills more slowly, which is signaled by a lack of interest in participating in class or a refusal to share their insights or experiences with other children. 

What To Do if You Notice Indicators of Autism in Your Child

If you notice any of these signs in your child, take them to see a specialist right away. By responding quickly to signs of autism, you’ll provide your child with the support they need to thrive and continue developing effectively. The symptoms for a toddler differ from those in babies or adults, so make sure to consider the signs for this specific age group when making your decision. In some cases, signs of autism in children can be mistaken for other types of neurodivergencies, such as ADHD, so it’s important to visit a specialist to determine your child’s exact needs.

These are just a few of the most common indicators of autism in toddlers. Pay attention to your child’s behaviors and development to determine whether it might be time to visit a specialist for an assessment. You can also look into interventions to aid your child’s development, such as ABA autism training or specialized therapy.


About Amy T. Smith

Amy is a mother, writer, and your go-to expert for real-life insights into parenting, health, and lifestyle. Amy holds a Master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University and prides herself on finding actionable tips and relatable tales.

Through her blog, AmyandRose, she supports you from pregnancy to the teenage years, offering assurance that your experiences are shared.

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