Autism Behavior at 2 Years Old

By Kathy Gleason
Some children show early signs of autism in the toddler years.
Some children show early signs of autism in the toddler years.

Parents can have many concerns about their toddlers -- does she eat enough? Sleep enough? Is she happy? One worry that parents may have is autism. The only definite way to find out if your child may have autism is to have her evaluated by her doctor. However, there are a few things parents can look out for. If you notice your 2-year-old exhibiting certain behaviors, it's time to talk to her pediatrician.


At 2 years old, many toddlers can speak phrases that are at least two words long, for instance "Milk, please" or "Daddy hug." If your child is not yet stringing several words together, it may be worth keeping an eye on. The Autism Science Foundation says that another sign of autism related to speech in toddlers is a 2-year-old who doesn't try to imitate words that others speak.

Physical Skills

A toddler who, at 2 years of age, is still not walking steadily may need to be evaluated for autism risk factors. Something to pay very close attention to is if your toddler begins losing skills she had already. For example, if she was fairly competent at drinking from a cup and now has difficulty with it, or she used to be able to climb onto the swings at the park and can't now, it should definitely be watched and mentioned to her doctor.

Trouble Listening

Sometimes with toddlers it can be hard to tell if they are just ignoring you to be strong willed or if there is a problem. But a 2-year-old who can't follow simple instructions may be showing early signs of autism. Also, pay attention if your toddler doesn't seem to know what common objects are for. If your toddler doesn't put a play phone up to his ear to pretend to talk or zoom a toy car around on the floor, there is a chance of a problem and you should talk to your pediatrician about your observations.

Lack of Affection

While some kids are just naturally more affectionate than others, a toddler who never initiates cuddling or responds to it may be showing autistic behavior, according to Help Guide. Look out for whether your 2-year-old ever holds his arms up to be picked up or initiates laying on the couch with you. It can also be a warning sign if your toddler doesn't show interest in other people or never wants to play with other children.

About the Author

Kathy Gleason is a freelance writer living in rural northern New Jersey who has been writing professionally since 2010. She is a graduate of The Institute for Therapeutic Massage in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Before leaving her massage therapy career to start a family, Gleason specialized in Swedish style, pregnancy and sports massage.