#311 Seven Characteristics that Differentiate Autism from Other Language Delays


Seven Characteristics that Differentiate Autism from Other Language Delays

Do you waffle between a diagnosis of language delay vs. autism for a child who is a late talker, but may have additional delays and other “quirks”?

With toddlers, getting an accurate diagnosis can be tricky!

In this podcast, we’ll discuss 7 behaviors or differences in children with autism that differentiate autism from other kinds of speech-language delays and disorders in toddlers and preschoolers. This information is evidence-based so you can trust it!

Listen here:


Seven Characteristics that Differentiate ASD from other Developmental Language Delays/Disorders 

  • Eye Contact and Eye Gaze – difficulty paying attention to faces and following your point after 12 months
  • Orienting to One’s Name – inconsistent responding to own name most of the time by 12 months
  • Pointing to or Showing Objects of Interest – does not point or show objects to others by 15 months
  • Pretend Play – does not demonstrate how familiar objects are used by 15 months and doesn’t show true “pretending” in play such as feeding a baby doll or using one object to represent another object by 24 months
  • Imitation – does not watch other people to copy their actions and body movements such as waving; does not imitate sounds and words by 16 to 18 months
  • Nonverbal Communication – does not understand and use variety gestures by 16 months; displays “flat” effect or limited facial expressions or body language
  • Language Development – exhibits delays and differences in both language comprehension and expression as compared to same-age peers; may talk but not communicate with others. **Expressive skills may be at a higher developmental level than receptive skills in autism. **

This information is a section from my course Is It Autism? on DVD. If you’re an SLP and have not taken this course yet, you should! 🙂 It’s filled with information for SLPs, other therapists, and even committed parents! Part One focuses on diagnostics and learning the “official” criteria used when a child receives a diagnosis of ASD. Part Two is all about intervention. You’ll learn the 10 best approaches/goals for designing comprehensive treatment plans for toddlers at risk and who have already received the diagnosis.

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  1. debra on June 13, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Laura,
    I feel my son does all those things quite well except for the first two.
    In a nutshell:
    My son is 3 years and 8 months. He can talk in full 5-7-word sentences. He initiates communication by not only stating his wants and needs, but comments on things like, “See the spider, Mommy?” He can expand into little conversations (after you’ve acknowledged him and ask ‘what’s he doing?”) with “It’s crawling up that wall.” Stuff like that. He has good joint attention like when we’re doing a puzzle together, he’ll always look to me and ask if this is the “right piece” by holding it up and showing me, then placing the piece in the slot and asking “like this?”- looking at me again. He can pedal a bike, throw a ball and run like the dickens. His eye-contact has improved significantly. When he was two, it wasn’t that good, neither was his name response, which also has improved, but still not that great when he’s preoccupied.

  2. Sandra Hexner on July 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for all this great information about language delay and autism! I really like your point about how comprehension and expression are very different experiences for a child and in reviewing there may be signs that the child could have autism. This is so important for every parent to know. My sweet godson may have autism and we thinking if we work with a pediatric speech therapist, we’ll be able to pin point his needs.

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