First of all, there are VERY distinct differences between autism spectrum disorder and a child who has a speech delay.

Any professional who diagnoses your child, will know the difference and won’t just give a diagnosis to give a diagnosis. Secondly, if you are concerned about a speech delay or autism spectrum disorder, you should be taking your child to see a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

SLPs cannot diagnose autism; that is done by a developmental pediatrician. Learn more about how autism is diagnosed!

SLPs can, however, tell you that they are seeing signs of someone who is on the spectrum. 

From my professional experience and from what studies have shown, it is very important that if you feel like your child is showing signs/symptoms from either list, then it’s important to see the appropriate medical professionals to get an accurate diagnosis. I will, for the  purpose of this blog, go through both diagnoses and their signs/symptoms. 

Autism Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms that could indicate a person has autism spectrum disorder. Not all adults or children with autism will have every symptom, and some adults and children without autism may display some of the same behaviors and symptoms. 

  • Delayed speech and communication skills
  • Avoiding eye contact 
  • Reliance on rules and routines (rigidity) 
  • Being upset by relatively minor changes
  • Unexpected reactions to sounds, tastes, sights, touch and smells
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s emotions
  • Focusing on or becoming obsessed by a narrow range of interests or objects
  • Engaging in repetitive behavior such as flapping hands or rocking
  • Children not responding to their name by 12 months
  • Children not pointing at distant objects by 14 months

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Speech Delay Signs and Symptoms

A speech and language delay is when a child isn’t developing speech and language at an expected rate. It is a common developmental problem that affects as many as 10% of preschool children. Your child may have a speech delay if he or she isn’t able to do these things:

  • Saying simple words (such as “mama”) either clearly or unclearly by 12 to 15 months of age
  • By 12 months: isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye
  • By 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate
  • By 18 months: has trouble imitating sounds
  • Understanding simple words (such as “no” or “stop”) by 18 months of age.
  • Has trouble understanding simple verbal requests.
  • By 2 years: can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases spontaneously
  • By 2 years: says only some sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs
  • By 2 years: can’t follow simple directions
  • By 2 years: has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)
  • Talking in short sentences by 3 years of age
  • Telling a simple story at 4 to 5 years of age
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  • my son is now 6 year old he is behaving well but has issue with expressive speech when he tried to form proper sentence , he is academically very smart what i should do to make him normal, he is very cool no any hyper action

    • Have you tried the Speech Blubs app? The app offers you a fun and engaging way to practice speech! You can try it with a 7-day free trial. Also, talk to your pediatrician about his speech development to check if he needs speech therapy.

  • Hi. I just wanted to say that since autism is a spectrum that encompasses a variety of different conditions, not everyone falls into the same category. I have Asperger Syndrome and I learned to read at 2 years old, and to speak before 8 months, so you shouldn’t get carried away in case your 4-year-old doesn’t even know how to speak. It’s just a note.

    • Can’t agree more, you are on point! Parents should always consult a professional if they worry. Thank you for your comment!

  • Hi. My nephew is almost 4 and he is a late talker. He had a lot of signs of autism but he is not autistic (according to the specialist). The doc said that he has he is smarter than his age but he has some difficulties responding to comands. He knows the alphabet and numbers in English (EFL) and in his language too (also songs, colors etc since he was 2) but he won’t care if you tell him to stop doing something. He was 3 years old and he could not still ask for water, just cry for it. He did some months of ABA therapy and he is doing all the activities perfectly but they come up with things like “he is hyperactive” “he cries like a 6month old because he imitates his baby brother and that is not good” ” he jumps from heights because he wants to hurt himself”. He looks so normal to us, despite the fact that he does not talk a lot but now he is able to communicate and tell us what he wants. He is the smartest kid. He can spell words in English like a pro, sing and responds to us. If he doesn’t get what he wants he throws tantrums and everybody just stares at him. The thing is that my sister is so stressed about this situation. She wants to feel that her kid is fine and everything is going to get ok but on the other hand, the therapists are always finding something to say that she doesn’t agree with. I also have a baby and besides the fact that mine talks all day long, there is no huge difference in their behaviour. Sorry for this large text. We’re worried.
    Thank you

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