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Catching and Treating the Earliest Signs of Autism in Your Toddler

Up to half of all kids with a diagnosis of autism can recover if they receive early and intensive behavioral intervention starting before the age of 3. The problem is that most kids with early signs of autism need to wait months, and sometimes years, to get a diagnosis and/or treatment. This delay not only causes parents to worry, but also causes the gaps to widen.


For children in a childcare situation, their teacher or guardian might be indicating that something isn’t quite right. He may be falling behind peers, not fitting in, playing alone too much—or worse yet, being aggressive toward others.


Many parents might be on a long wait list for an evaluation by a Developmental Pediatrician, but now that wait is producing such stress that they are lying awake most nights worrying. Even if a child does not have any severe symptoms, if anything has caused concern, it is important to trust your gut, stop worrying and take action today by following these three pieces of advice.


  1. Compare typical milestones to your child’s abilities and keep track of these, even between well-child visits. The CDC website ( has lists of typical milestones at different ages.
  2. Don’t freak out or stick your head in the sand. If your toddler is delayed, talk to your pediatrician or daycare/preschool teacher about getting a free early intervention evaluation and treatment.
  3. Start investigating autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is the most proven treatment for autism.


Acting today might not stop the worrying, but worrying alone is not helping you or your child at all. Regardless of whether a child is eventually diagnosed with autism or whether he is just going through a difficult patch in his development, these three steps will help parents figure out what to do next, and help children reach their fullest potential.


For more information, download the free e-book, Is It Autism, ADHD, or Typical Toddler Tantrums? at


Dr. Mary Barbera “fell” into the autism world in 1999 when her first-born son, Lucas, was diagnosed with autism one day before he turned 3. In the past two decades, she became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, wrote a best-selling book (The Verbal Behavior Approach), earned a Ph.D., and created online training programs for parents and professionals. Her new mission is to teach parents how to detect and treat the earliest warning signs of autism and turn things around for 2 million children with autism by 2020, through online training and advocacy.

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