All children will have both delays and sudden progress in their development. It is normal to be worried or concerned over lack of progress or unusual behaviors, and happily these are resolved eventually. However, parents are in an ideal situation to watch for potential early signs of Autism, Asperger's syndrome, and other developmental issues in their child.

Autism and Asperger's syndrome are developmental disorders and minimizing these developmental delays is very important for a child's long-term outcome. For this reason, early diagnosis and early intervention are crucial so here are some tips for parents looking for possible early signs.

Early signs of Autism & Asperger's syndrome
These disorders will cause delays in a child's early development, with possible indicators in:
• Social skills
• The senses - hearing, taste, touch, sight, smell
• Play and imagination

It should be stressed that a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger's syndrome arises from a wide range of these indicators appearing to be a consistent theme in a child's development.

THE FIRST YEAR - possible signs of Autism & Asperger's syndrome
There are certain milestones of development that the average child reaches within the first year of development. Some of these include:
• Standing with support by parents
• Crawling around
• Saying single words
• Waving goodbye and other simple gestures.

Not reaching these milestones does not indicate your child has symptoms of Autism or Asperger's syndrome, as many children may be late developers and catch up at a later point. However it pays to look out for possible early symptoms as early intervention therapies can make a big difference if a diagnosis is reached in the years ahead. Children are usually not diagnosed until the second year at least but there are moves toward making earlier diagnoses to allow earlier intervention therapies.

Even in the first few months of life, it may be apparent that an autistic child does not interact with others, and avoids eye contact. They may seem indifferent to other people and prefer to be alone. They may not like attention, or just passively accept cuddles.

Toward the end of the first year, the child may not appear to react normally to certain objects and activities. They may have an extreme reaction, or none at all. They may begin to show the first signs of repetitive behaviors such as rocking, or fixating on objects with their eyes. A lack of eye contact with other people is very common at later stages but may not show in the first year.

In some cases, a child can be developing normally in the first year then begin showing these characteristics.

THE SECOND YEAR - possible signs of Autism & Asperger's syndrome
• A lack of interest in other children and people
• Lack of eye contact
• Not pointing at objects that are wanted
• Not using sentences of two words by two years of age
• Losing words or language skills that were already acquired
• Repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping or rocking
• Does not look at objects you are pointing to
• Does not play pretend games
Walking on tip toes.

Unusual behaviors and the differences in the way an autistic child reacts to people may become apparent in the second year or later. This change could be sudden, with a child starting to lose language skills, rejecting people and developing some of the above mentioned behaviors. Sometimes the child ceases to progress, and this lack of development becomes noticeable when compared with other children of the same age.

TWO TO FIVE YEARS OF AGE- possible signs of Autism & Asperger's syndrome
• A lack of interest in other children and people
• Lack of eye contact
• Not pointing at objects that are wanted
• Lack of, or strange reaction to the distress of other children
• Obsessed with certain objects, toys and games
• Focus on order, routine and arrangement of objects
• Distress when these orders, routines or arrangements are disturbed
• Repetitive movements such as rocking, hand flapping, or spinning around
• Sensitivity to loud sounds that don't disturb other children
• Sensitivity to touch ie. disliking hugs or fabrics of certain clothes
• Sensitivity to smell and taste.

PRE-TEENAGE YEARS - signs of Asperger's syndrome
In some cases, a child may be at the milder end of the autistic spectrum and developmental delays may only become obvious in the pre-teen years. Some signs of Asperger's syndrome could include:
• Lack of eye contact
• Few if any close friends
• Does not share or take turns
• Lack of communication skills, or unusual ways of talking
• Little use of non-verbal communication and gestures
• Repetitive phrases and focus on limited range of topics
• Does not show empathy toward others
• Difficulties with the 'give and take' of conversation
• Unusual gestures made when excited or distressed.

TEENAGE YEARS - signs of Asperger's syndrome
In mild cases of Asperger's syndrome, developmental delays may only become evident in the teenage years. Some signs of mild Asperger's syndrome could include:
• Lack of eye contact
• Apparent lack of emotion
• Difficulty in establishing close friendships
• Literal thinking and trouble with sarcasm, irony and subtle humor
• Tendency toward obsessive and compulsive behaviors
• Inappropriate comments or behavior in social situations
• Difficulties in understanding the views, emotions and needs of others.

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Comprehensive range of fact sheets on Autism and Asperger's syndrome: causes, effects, early intervention, communication issues, behavioral problems, personal stories and tips for parenting.