When Does Autism Develop? Early Signs of Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals from a very young age.

The first signs of autism may appear without warning, and early identification and intervention are important for improving outcomes for individuals with ASD.

One of the earliest signs of ASD is a lack of or reduced eye contact, which can be observed in infants as young as 6 months old.

This may be accompanied by a lack of response to social cues, such as not responding to their name or not smiling in response to a caregiver’s face.[i]

Signs of autism in toddlers and young children include difficulties with nonverbal communication, such as not pointing at objects to show interest or not using gestures like waving or nodding. They may also have delayed language development or regress in language development, where they lose previously exhibited language skills.

Repetitive behaviors and sensory sensitivities may also be present in early childhood, such as fixating on certain objects or textures, or becoming upset by certain sounds, lights, or textures.[ii]

But when do signs of autism start showing up? As mentioned, some early symptoms of autism can appear as early as 6 months old.

As such, it’s important for parents and caregivers to be aware of these early signs of autism and to seek evaluation and help if they suspect their child may be at risk for ASD. Early intervention is always recommended to help address symptoms and produce more positive outcomes for individuals with ASD.

At the Drake Institute, we employ advanced treatment technologies to develop personalized treatment plans for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our approach involves using brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation to help our patients reduce their symptoms, improve functioning, and a better quality of life.

If you are interested in learning more about our treatment for ASD, please complete our consultation form or give us a call at 800-700-4233.

What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that can vary in severity and is characterized by a range of symptoms, including repetitive behaviors, difficulties with social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.

In 2013, the DSM-V underwent a revision that combined previous disorders of Autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-not otherwise specified into one umbrella category labelled autism spectrum disorder. These disorders are all linked to brain development and symptoms can appear even in the first two years of infancy.

Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because the symptoms and severity can vary widely from person to person. Some individuals with ASD may have mild symptoms and be able to function relatively independently in some areas, while others may have more severe symptoms that require extensive support.[iii]

Early Signs & Symptoms of Autism

So, when does autism develop?

ASD typically becomes apparent in early childhood. Some of the most common early signs of autism include delayed or absent language development, lack of eye contact and social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.

Babies with ASD may not respond to their name or other social cues and may not engage in pretend play. Other common signs include atypical reactions to sensory input, such as an aversion to certain textures or sounds, or seeking out intense sensory input. Early identification and intervention are obviously important for improving outcomes for children with autism.[iv]

Autism Signs & Symptoms at 6-12 Months

Autism symptoms in babies can sometimes be difficult to identify. However, continuous monitoring of the baby’s communication, social awareness of others and interaction will help. Below are some of the most common signs of autism in babies:

  • Lack of joyful and/or engaging expressions: The infant may not respond to cooing, tickling, or show interest in the parent’s expressions.
  • Limited eye contact: The baby may avoid eye contact, even when being held or fed.
  • Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds: Babies with signs of autism may not laugh or coo when being vocally engaged.
  • Lack of babbling: These infants may not vocalize on their own or with a caretaker to communicate needs or emotions.
  • Few instances of gestures (e.g., pointing, showing, reaching, waving, etc.): Instead of pointing at a toy they want, they may simply look at it.
  • Doesn’t respond to name: The autistic child may not react to hearing their name, even when they are being played with or held. [v]

Autism Signs & Symptoms 12-24 Months

Autism symptoms in toddlers are like those seen in babies. However, signs of autism in toddlers are usually more pronounced; at this age, children are learning how to communicate and interact with others, so deficits are more readily observed.

  • Talk in an unusual tone: Their vocalizations may sound unfamiliar, like a foreign language. They may also emphasize incorrect syllables in words.
  • Display unexpected reactions to certain sounds, textures, and/or tastes: For example, the child may experience distress after eating a crunchy carrot stick because of food texture aversion.
  • Carry objects around for extended periods: The child may refuse to go anywhere without a favorite toy or let go of it to eat.
  • Move hands, fingers, or other body parts in a repetitive manner: For instance, the child may open and close their hands repeatedly.
  • Plays with toys in an odd manner: The child may continuously organize and rearrange toys in a particular way without playing with them in a typical way.
  • May cry or throw a tantrum more often than other children: The child may experience extreme distress when faced with unfamiliar situations, like at the grocery store.
  • Lack of enthusiasm to explore new things: Instead of enjoying a new game or toy, the child may return to a single favorite.
  • May not enjoy cuddling: For example, the child prefers to sit by himself instead of sharing a seat on the sofa with a family member. They may also resist hugs or getting tucked in at night.
  • Lack of interest in other children: The child may often be found playing alone, even when other children are around, such as at daycare or the park. [vi]

How is Autism Diagnosed?

Autism is typically identified in early childhood when developmental delays become apparent. However, diagnosing autism can be difficult as there are no specific blood or lab tests available. Instead, symptoms of autism are recognized through a child's failure to reach certain developmental milestones, reflected by social and communication developmental lags that are not seen in neurotypical children.

If developmental milestones are not met, an evaluation for autism should be considered. This evaluation typically involves gathering feedback from parents, teachers, and other caregivers who spend time with the child to identify potential characteristics of autism.

During routine checkups with a pediatrician, it's important to discuss any concerns or delays in your child's development, particularly when it comes to communication, behavior, and socialization. This information can be valuable in helping to diagnose autism.[vii]

How Does Autism Develop?

The exact cause of autism is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some studies suggest that genetic mutations and variations may be linked to the development of autism, while other studies suggest that environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins or prenatal infections, may play a role. Additionally, brain development and brain network connectivity may be affected in individuals with autism.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means that it affects the development of the brain and the nervous system. It typically appears in early childhood and affects an individual's social skills, communication, and behavior. The specific symptoms and severity of autism can vary widely among individuals, and it is considered a spectrum disorder.[viii]

Do Children Grow Out Of Autism?

Typically, children do not grow out of autism. While some children with autism may display fewer or less severe symptoms as they get older, autism is viewed as a lifelong condition.

However, with appropriate interventions, individuals with autism can learn strategies to learn new skills and improve their symptoms. It is important to note that each person with autism faces challenges based on the degree of their impairment and levels of functioning. So while symptoms may change over time in severity or type, there is currently no cure.

Can Autism Be Cured?

There is currently no known cure for autism.  While there is no cure, early intervention and various therapies can help individuals with autism to improve their symptoms and quality of life. It is important to note that autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it affects each person differently. Even some individuals on the autism spectrum who are significantly challenged from their deficits can achieve a better quality of life with appropriate support and intervention.

How Does The Drake Institute Treat Autism?

For more than four decades, the Drake Institute has utilized advanced treatment technologies to address a range of medical conditions associated with the brain. These include, but are not limited to, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, stress-related disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and many others. From the clinical evaluation and brain mapping, our Medical Director creates individualized treatment plans for each patient. Here's an overview of how we approach treatment:

Brain Mapping

To begin treatment, we first need to obtain a QEEG brain map of the patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which areas of the brain specifically are experiencing dysregulation linked to symptoms. We place 19 sensors on the scalp in areas responsible for language, social/emotional understanding, memory, executive functioning, and behavioral/emotional regulation.

The sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database.

By comparing the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify dysregulated regions or networks of the brain that are linked to symptoms. This information is used to design individualized treatment protocols.


During neurofeedback training, sensors are once again placed around the scalp. The sensors record brainwave activity that is then displayed visually in real-time on a computer screen with auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback treatment sessions, the patient will learn to improve brain activity by guiding it toward healthier more appropriately functional brainwave patterns that reduce symptoms. There are no drugs or invasive procedures involved. Instead, the patient improves their own brain functioning by receiving feedback through visual and auditory stimuli.


In some cases, we may use neurostimulation as an adjunct to neurofeedback. This involves the use of gentle stimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to produce healthier functional brainwave patterns. We have found this approach to be particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

For more than four decades, Drake Institute has helped patients achieve an improved quality of life by reducing or alleviating symptoms associated with a range of disorders, including autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, and hypertension. To begin the process, call us at 1-800-700-4233 or complete the free consultation form.


[i] https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/symptoms-appear

[ii] https://neurosciences.ucsd.edu/centers-programs/autism/early/signs.html

[iii] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928

[iv] https://neurosciences.ucsd.edu/centers-programs/autism/early/signs.html

[v] https://www.autismspeaks.org/signs-autism

[vi] https://neurosciences.ucsd.edu/centers-programs/autism/early/signs.html#Display-unusual-sensory-sensiti

[vii] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

[viii] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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