Is my child on the autism spectrum?

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders.  Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that people with autism can be affected differently and can have wide range of abilities.  This can make autism extremely difficult to diagnose.  These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal/nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Although autism is in early brain development, the clearest red flags of autism tend to show between 2 and 3 years of age.

Per the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • 1 in 68 children in the USA are on the autism spectrum
  • 1 out of 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed in the United States.

There is no established explanation for the growing increase, but improved diagnosis and environmental aspects are two reasons that are considered.

How early can autism be detected?
ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.1 However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

“A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.”  – CDC

What are early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Children develop differently, each child is a unique individual and may show different behaviors than others. Check with your child’s healthcare provider if you see early signs of ASD behaviors, such as:

  • Not returning your smile, giving “back and forth” responses and joyful expressions by 6 months
  • May not like physical contact, or prefers to be alone
  • Not smiling or making other facial expressions by nine months
  • Lack of eye contact, or looking at objects when another person points at them
  • Not responding to simple directions
  • Seems interested in people, but does not understand how to interact with them
  • Not responding to name, is unaware someone is speaking to them, but responds to other sounds
  • Seems distant, may have trouble relating to others or shows no interest in other people
  • Rocks/flaps hands, has unusual reactions to smell, taste, sights, touch or sound
  • Makes excessive motions repeatedly
  • Repeats words or phrases said to them, or replaces repetition with normal speech
  • Has trouble adapting to changes in routines
  • Does not play “pretend games” (for example, does not pretend to “feed” a stuffed animal
  • Suddenly stops talking or loses formerly captured social skills at any age
  • Not pointing to show interest, or using other hand gestures
  • Has challenges expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • Not babbling by twelve months old
  • Not making meaningful, 2-word original phrases by 24 months

Where can I find more information about early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders?
For help locally with screening questionnaires, contact The Link – a resource center at Centralia College. Request a SMART Team Packet at or 360-508-4287.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers lots of information and resources.

A formal diagnosis is a necessary step if you are seeing these signs. For a more complete process, Autism Speaks provides an online checklist.


Screening Agencies in Lewis County:

Early Childhood Education Programs:

Growing Together Phone: 360.807.7245
The Growing Together Program As part of the Centralia and Chehalis school districts, the Growing Together Program serves children from birth to three years of age with developmental delays.  Families work side by side with therapists and teachers in  the individualized therapy  sessions and developmental playgroup. Services are provided in a variety of settings, including home and the classroom. Free screenings are available to all children. Please call 360-736-5906 for information.

Family Support:
Parent-to-Parent Phone:  360-520-9299
The Parent to Parent Program motivates and empowers the growth of disadvantaged & disabled individuals by expanding opportunities in employment, education, and affordable housing, for children, youth, & adults in Lewis County.