Early Warning Signs of ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can look different for each individual. In order to make a diagnosis, a doctor will look at an individual’s developmental history and behavior. ASD can be diagnosed as young as 18 months, or younger. A diagnosis by the age of 2 can be considered reliable when provided by an experienced professional.

One in every 54 children are diagnosed with autism in the United States (2020, CDC.gov). Approximately 4 boys for 1 every girl are diagnosed with autism, with girls being diagnosed later in life than boys (2018, Duke University School of Medicine).

It is important to diagnosis an individual as early as possible and provide appropriate early interventions to help close any developmental delays. The CDC provides a list, both in English and in Spanish, of key developmental milestones for children as young as 2 months old through 5 years old: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

Some early warning signs that toddlers between 12-24 months who are at risk for autism spectrum disorder might display are:

· Displays unusual hand or body movements

· Displays unusual sensory sensitivities

· Plays with toys in an unusual manner

· Uses an unusual tone when babbling or talking

· Carries common or uncommon items / objects for an extended period of time.

· May not explore new things

· May be difficult to soothe or overly fussy

Some early warning signs that toddlers between 12-24 months who are at risk for autism spectrum disorder might not display are:

· Smile in response to another’s smile

· Point to request

· Make eye contact

· Try to gain others attention

· Show objects to others

· Show shared enjoyment

· Say their first word by 12-14 months

· Respond to their name

· Looks when you try to direct their attention

Finding a medical provider or psychologist that utilizes empirically-based measures to diagnose an individual with autism spectrum disorder is important.

Some common diagnostic tools that a provider may utilize to assess ASD are: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule™, Second Edition (ADOS™-2), Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI®-R), Childhood Autism Rating Scale™, Second Edition (CARS™2), and Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, Third Edition (GARS-3).

Once a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, it is important to look into what services their local schools, community agencies, and medical insurance agencies may provide. Finding parent/caregiver support groups can also be beneficial to help parents/caregivers find support, as well as learn how to navigate the system of services available. Some available resources are:

We are pleased to be able to offer autism diagnostic testing services here at Lotus Behavioral Interventions via telehealth during the global COVID-19 pandemic, a time during which we know a lot of families are struggling to get their child the services they need to succeed. Should you have any questions pertaining to developmental milestones, delays, assessments, autism diagnostic testing or ABA therapy services for your child, please feel free to reach out to us. It would be our pleasure to help your child blossom into his or her fullest developmental potentials.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

Duke University School of Medicine (2018, March 28). Girls in the Autism Spectrum are Being Overlooked. Retrieved from https://ipmh.duke.edu/news/girls-autism-spectrum-are-being-overlooked

Szalavitz, M. (2016, March 01). Autism–It’s Different in Girls. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/autism-it-s-different-in-girls/


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Picture of Laurie Tarter

Laurie Tarter

Dr. Laurie Tarter is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who has been helping special needs children, adolescents and adults for over 20 years. Prior to joining the Lotus clinical team in 2020, Dr. Tarter earned her doctorate degree from Alliant International University and her master's degree from Pepperdine University. She specializes in conducting autism specific diagnostic and cognitive assessments, and is also a certified provider for the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) for adolescents and young adults.

Dr. Tarter's experience includes serving as the Executive Director of EnCompass Behavioral Health, founding the San Diego chapter of Global Autism Project, and forming a team for Developmental Disabilities Crisis House.

Karelix Alicea


Founder / President of Lotus Behavioral Interventions

Miss Alicea received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology with a specialization in behavior analysis under the direction of the esteemed Dr. Jacob L. Gewirtz at Florida International University (FIU), and is currently in the process of completing an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership and Applied Behavior Analysis from Nova Southeastern University.

Following a period of almost 10 years of experience in the field, she founded Lotus Behavioral Interventions in 2009. Miss Alicea taught undergraduate-level behavior analysis coursework for several years at FIU and Carlos Albizu University, and is a graduate-level intensive practicum supervisor at Simmons College, Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) and University of South Florida (USF), all of which are Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) accredited programs.

She has presented on the benefits of sign language and telehealth services for children with autism in addition to ethical service delivery, supervision and entrepreneurship at various professional conferences, including the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis (FABA) and ABAI.

Miss Alicea is an active member of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA), and can render services in English, Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL) both face-to-face and via telehealth with the use of HIPAA-compliant technology.