Signs and Symptoms of Autism

WRITTEN BY: Mental Health
Saturday, April 19th, 2014

This post was last updated April 29, 2016


Nearly one in 88 children have been identified as having autism spectrum disorder, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Autism is a complex condition that can impair social interaction, language, communication, and other day-to-day behaviors. Signs of the disorder typically emerge in early childhood, though autism’s effects may span the entirety of a person’s life.

Most perplexing of all, there is no single “type” of autism, because it occurs across a broad spectrum. The disorder can be found across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, though the condition is more frequently diagnosed in boys than girls.

Early diagnosis and intervention for young children, as well as diagnostic and support services for adults, is vital. As children with autism transition to adulthood, the need for supports and services do not diminish — required support may include behavioral, educational, vocational, medical, and family services.

Early Signs of Autism

First or early significant signs to look for when assessing for autism:

  • No big smiles by six months
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds or smiles by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No two-word meaningful phrases by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills by any age

Signs of Autism in Older Children and Adults

Common signs of autism spectrum disorder that occur later in life:

  • Functional language impairment
  • Difficulty taking the perspective of others
  • Preoccupation with facts, details, and collections
  • Lack of meaningful friendships and relationships
  • Viewed as “odd” or “eccentric” by peers
  • Appears to lack empathy

Service for Those with Autism

The Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC has a long history of serving individuals with autism across the life span and provides specialized programs including:

  • Child and adult clinics
  • Child and adult inpatient unit
  • Child wraparound
  • Preschool
  • Summer therapeutic programs
  • Vocational training and supported employment
mental health

Mental Health

Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC and its academic partner, the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, constitute one of the leading centers for research and treatment of behavioral health disorders. For more than 60 years, the integration of research, academia, and clinical services has infused best-practice research into clinical settings for the individuals who need it most. Read More