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Early Detection and Diagnosis of Autism in India: Importance and Challenges

Published on October 25, 2023

early signs of autism
Snippets of paper reading "Autism Diagnosis" on them.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects millions of children worldwide, and India is no exception. Early detection and diagnosis of Autism play a crucial role in providing timely intervention and support, significantly improving the long-term outcomes for affected children. In this blog, we will explore the importance of identifying early signs of Autism in infants and toddlers, the challenges faced in early detection, and the impact it can have on children and families.

Statistics on Autism in India

The prevalence of Autism in India has been steadily increasing. According to a 2021 study published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics:

  1. The estimated prevalence of Autism in India is around 1 in 68 children.
  2. Boys are more commonly affected by Autism than girls, with a male-to-female ratio of approximately 3:1.

Early diagnosis and intervention is  still inadequate, with many children not receiving the necessary support at the right time. At times, parents lack the necessary knowledge and information on Autism, its potential impacts and available intervention and support measures. Early detection is the key to enabling children with ASD to lead a productive life. 

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection of Autism is a game-changer for several reasons:

  1. Early Intervention: Early diagnosis allows for the implementation of early intervention strategies tailored to the child's specific needs. This can significantly improve their developmental progress in crucial areas like communication, social skills, and behaviour.
  2. Brain Plasticity: In the early years of life, the brain exhibits high plasticity, meaning it can form new connections and adapt more effectively. This period offers a prime opportunity to influence a child's brain development positively. With early detection of ASD, the brain plasticity aspect can be better leveraged to boost the cognitive performance of the child. 
  3. Parental Support and Education: Early diagnosis provides parents and caregivers with an understanding of their child's needs and equips them with the knowledge and resources to support their child effectively.

For early detection of ASD, it is crucial to watch out for the telltale signs and symptoms in children. 

Early Signs of Autism in Infants

Autism symptoms in infants may not be as apparent as in older children. However, there are some early signs that parents and caregivers can observe:

  1. Limited Eye Contact: Infants who later develop Autism may avoid eye contact and not engage in "social smiling" interactions as expected.
  2. Lack of Response to Name: Typically, by the age of 6-9 months, infants respond to their names being called. However, an autistic child may not react or acknowledge their name being called. Lack of response is one of the most common signs of Autism in newborns. 
  3. Delayed Speech Development: A child not cooing or babbling by 12 months of age or not speaking single words by 16 months could be a potential sign of Autism.
  4. Limited Gestures: Autistic infants may show a lack of pointing, waving, or other gestures used for communication.
  5. Repetitive Behaviours: Repetitive movements, like hand-flapping, in infants can be an early indicator of Autism.

Signs of Autism in Toddlers

As children grow into the toddler stage, certain red flags may become more evident:

  1. Social Challenges: Autistic toddlers may struggle to engage in interactive play with peers, preferring solitary activities.
  2. Communication Difficulties: Limited or delayed speech development, difficulty expressing needs, and trouble understanding language may become more noticeable.
  3. Rigidity and Resistance to Change: Autistic children often show resistance to changes in routines or transitions.
  4. Lack of Imaginative Play: Pretend play, which is typical in toddlers, may be absent or limited in autistic children.
  5. Sensory Sensitivities: Autistic toddlers might display strong reactions to sensory stimuli, such as certain sounds, textures, or bright lights.

Challenges in Early Detection

Despite the importance of early detection, there are several challenges in identifying Autism in infants and toddlers:

  1. Lack of Awareness: Many parents and caregivers may not be aware of the early signs of Autism, leading to delays in seeking a professional evaluation. In some cases, parents might adopt the deferred approach wherein they refuse to accept that their child might have ASD. This further complicates the situation and might aggravate the ASD symptoms in the child. 
  2. Normal Variability: In early childhood, there is a wide range of development in social, communication, and behaviour skills. Distinguishing typical variations from potential autism symptoms can be tricky. 
  3. Limited Access to Resources: In some regions of India, access to specialised healthcare professionals and diagnostic services is limited, hindering early diagnosis efforts for ASD.

How Can India Autism Center Help?

The team at India Autism Center is committed to extending holistic support to autistic individuals and other spectrum disorders by 

  1. Building a digital platform, a one-stop solution for the entire neurodiverse community.
  2. Offering a personalised and responsive residential center that facilitates life-long support to autistic individuals and their families. 
  3. Building a sensitive and sustainable ecosystem that promotes quality of life.
  4. Extending evidence-based support mechanisms for Autistic individuals.
  5. Contributing towards the global knowledge base on Autism and related neurodiverse disorders. 
  6. Creating a global pool of top-notch professionals equipped with the requisite training to help autistic individuals realise their ultimate potential.


Early detection and diagnosis of Autism in infants and toddlers are crucial for providing timely interventions and support. As awareness about the early symptoms of Autism grows, more children can receive the assistance they need for improved developmental outcomes. Addressing the challenges in early detection, such as increasing awareness, improving access to diagnostic services, and supporting parents and caregivers, can significantly impact the lives of autistic children and their families across India. Let us work together to build a more inclusive and supportive environment for autistic individuals in the country.