Child Psychologist Post: Does My Child Have Autism?

It is common for parents of young children to worry about them.

You want them to be healthy, happy, and to live (as best as possible) a care-free and uncomplicated life. Many things can get in the way of making that a reality: illness, injury, and developmental delays, such as autism, are all factors that can impact your children’s quality of life.

Autism is a commonly occurring childhood diagnosis
Autism is a commonly occurring childhood diagnosis

One diagnosis that has garnered increasing attention and concern over the past several years is autism, and with good reason

In March 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing that the prevalence of autism in the United States is at 1:68. Since that time however, a parent survey conducted by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) has suggested that the ratio may actually be closer to 1:45.

Children diagnosed with autism show varying degrees of difficulty in three main areas: social communication, social interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. Autism exists on a spectrum, so it is important to remember that every child diagnosed with autism will look different. There is no “typical” way that autism presents itself.

Autism covers a spectrum of symptoms
Autism covers a spectrum of symptoms

The following is a checklist of symptoms and signs to look for if you’re concerned your child may have autism:

Social Communication

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Lack of use of gestures and other nonverbal communication (pointing, miming, pulling your hand or clothing to show you something, tapping you to get your attention, using hands for emphasis)
  • Poor or minimal verbal communication
  • Seeming difficulty with understanding what others are saying
  • Blunted, odd, or absent facial expressions
Many children with autism have social delays
Many children with autism have social delays

Social Interaction

  • Lack of interest in others
  • Desire to isolate and play alone
  • Difficulty with, or disinterest in, imaginative play
  • Difficulty initiating appropriate interactions with others
  • Difficulty making and maintaining friends
  • Difficulty adjusting behavior to match their environment
Some children with autism have behavioral concerns
Some children with autism have behavioral concerns


  • Repetitive motor movements (flapping hands, walking on tiptoes, pacing or running back and forth across a room)
  • Restricted or odd use of toys or objects (lining toys up, flipping or spinning objects)
  • Repetitive speech/echolalia (i.e. repeating what others say)
  • Idiosyncratic speech (saying things that don’t make sense or are out of context, such as repeating lines from a movie or television show)
  • Insistence in sameness, inflexible observance of rules and routines
  • High distress or emotionality around transitions or when things change
  • Rigid or ritualized behaviors to maintain sameness (i.e. only eating specific foods, greeting people in a specific way, etc.)
  • Interests are highly specified and elicit a strong fixation that is abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Over- or under-reaction to sensory stimuli in the environment (lights, sounds, pain, temperature, textures, smells)
  • Excessive smelling, touching, tasting of objects, or a strong fascination with lights or movement
Early intervention is key to helping children with autism
Early intervention is key to helping children with autism


If your child displays a significant amount of the items on this checklist, it may be beneficial to have them assessed by a psychologist to determine if they meet criteria for autism. For additional information, please see the following resources:

Christina Stai

Author: Christina Stai

Dr. Christina Stai is a licensed clinical psychologist in both California and Iowa. She specializes in young children and received her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from Azusa Pacific University, an APA accredited school near Los Angeles. She completed an APA accredited internship and APPIC accredited postdoctoral fellowship at a residential emergency shelter with abused and neglected foster youth.  We are proud that she has joined Hope Springs.

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