Signs of autism in children

Signs of autism in children

The symptoms of autism can be very different from one person to the next. Depending on age, environment, development, etc., autism will not be identical. Also, people who are not autistic may have features that resemble those of autistic people. That's why only a professional in the field of autism can make a diagnosis.

Early signs and symptoms of autism in children

Some children’s behaviour will appear different very quickly. Others will have symptoms that are more visible at the start of schooling, and some will even manage to mask their autistic traits to a greater or lesser extent. Autism affects different people in different ways, and does not systematically create the same challenges for all of them. The following list is therefore a series of clues that should prompt parents to seek help. They may lead to a different diagnosis of autism.


Please note that many of these signs and symptoms can also be found in people who are not autistic, and autistic people do not usually exhibit the full range of symptoms.

All ages

From 6 to 9 months

From 9 to 12 months

From 12 to 18 months

From 18 to 24 months

From 24 to 36 months

From 36 to 48 months

At 48 months

• Our son has an "invisible" form of autism, meaning that he manages to camouflage his features. His traits are barely perceptible to most people, and even to many healthcare professionals. It's mainly with us, his parents, that his autistic traits manifest themselves (very intensely!). Outside the home, they are only perceptible to the trained eye. This peculiarity made the assessment process and the recognition of his diagnosis very difficult and challenging. We learned a lot along the way.

The more subtle symptoms of autism in a school-age child

For some children, autism is more difficult to diagnose, and will begin to be suspected when they start school, when they begin to learn, when they have their first important social interactions, or when there are changes in their lives. Some people even learn that they have autism in adolescence or adulthood.

Mild autistic people often mask their differences and challenges more easily than severe autistic people. They will compensate and take creative, roundabout or different ways of functioning despite the difficulties they encounter. However, it’s not uncommon for them to find themselves faced with a situation they’re unable to manage, and for autism to be suspected during a consultation with a professional or someone close to them.

Manifestations of autism, which may appear later in development

Subtle difficulties in social interaction

These children may have friends and seem social, but they may struggle to understand social nuances, such as sarcasm or subtle facial expressions.

Specific or special interests

 They may have one or two intense interests, but this may not be as obvious as in children with more pronounced symptoms.

Sensory sensitivities

These children may be slightly sensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights, but not necessarily to the point of avoiding these stimuli altogether.

Difficulties with change

They may have difficulty adapting to changes in routine or environment, even if they do not show obvious distress.

Coordination difficulties

Some children may have fine or gross motor difficulties, such as holding a pencil or playing ball games.

Sleep problems

While this may be common in many children, some children with autism may have particular difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Difficulties with non-literal language

They may take things literally and have trouble understanding metaphors or idiomatic expressions.

Intense emotional reactions

These children can have intense emotional reactions to situations that may seem minor to others.

Dietary rigidity

These children may refuse to eat food of a certain color, ask to have separate foods on the plate, wish to eat the same thing at almost every meal, or cover all their dishes with the same sauce.

It is important to note that the presence of one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that a child is autistic. A professional diagnosis is essential to determine the presence of autism.