It can be difficult for a parent to admit that there is something different about their child.  In fact, it is easier to deny the issue and hope that a child grows out of it instead of confronting it fully.  And the thing with autism is that the earlier it is caught in a child, the better their chances are for early intervention so that the child can adapt more easily and assimilate into their communities.

Arguably, one of the biggest enemies of autism is denial. It is far easier to tell ourselves as parents that certain behaviours are phases that the child will eventually grow out of.  The good news is that there are tell-tale signs and different forms of intervention that can support parents and their children in understanding autism, accepting it and learning to work with it instead of against it.

While many schools in Malaysia do accept children with Autism, many of them lack the programmes that can best support the children with applied behavioural analysis therapy.  The good news is that with growing awareness throughout the country, many organisations are taking a stand and educating the public.  There have also been many schools that specialise in teaching and working with children with learning disabilities especially in the Petaling Jaya area.  Other schools have similarly opened or are in the process of opening specific divisions to also support children with learning disabilities.

But first things first, if your child has been diagnosed with autism keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with your child; your child simply learns differently than other children.  Autism Spectrum Disorder is a disorder that affects brain development.  And according to (, a growing body of research suggests that a woman can decrease her chances of having a child with autism by taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid during the months before and after conception.

But how does a parent detect whether their child is displaying some of the symptoms of Autism?  And more importantly, at what age do the said symptoms occur?  Below are a list of signs and symptoms children may display.  Keep in mind that autism affects children differently and the best way to know for certain is to see a specialist such as a neurologist, developmental paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist.

From (

Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers

  • Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed)
  • Doesn’t smile when smiled at
  • Doesn’t respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
  • Doesn’t follow objects visually
  • Doesn’t point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
  • Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out
  • Doesn’t make noises to get your attention
  • Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling
  • Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
  • Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
  • Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests

The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician.

  • By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions
  • By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions
  • By 12 months: Lack of response to name
  • By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk”
  • By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving
  • By 16 months: No spoken words
  • By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating

In summary, Autism Spectrum disorder affects each child differently.  Coincidentally some children may display stronger symptoms with more adverse effects.  If you would like to take the MCHAT-Revised (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers-Revised as a preliminary measure, click here (

If you have any concerns about your child in particular, please contact a specialist in order to understand better you and your child’s needs.

Jana Moreno,