What is autism?

Autism is a spectrum disorder

Autism is a complex condition that affects brain development and results in differences in social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Autism is not caused by parents or the way a child is raised. Research is being done to explore the possible causes of autism.

With support, people who have autism can develop their capabilities and enjoy success.

Possible signs of autism

Signs of autism usually appear before age three.

If your child demonstrates two or more of these signs, ask your doctor for a referral for an assessment. These early indicators have been adapted from the Autism Canada Physician Handbook.

Social interaction

  • Lack of appropriate eye gaze
  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or older
  • Lack of sharing interest or enjoyment
  • Lack of response to name
  • Difficulty understanding non-verbal cues
  • Difficulty building age-appropriate friendships


  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • Lack of showing gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • Lack of coordination of non-verbal communication
  • Non-verbal or responds inappropriately in conversations
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • Unusual voice quality that includes little variation in pitch, odd intonation or irregular rhythm

Repetitive behaviours or restricted interests

  • Repetitive movements with objects
  • Repetitive movements or posturing of body, arms, hands or fingers
  • Overly dependent on routines
  • Highly sensitive to changes in the environment
  • Strongly attached to objects

You may also want to consider these other tools: