Autism is a neurological disorder that impairs a person's ability to communicate and interact socially. This disorder usually manifests itself in children before the age of three years. The signs of autism can develop gradually, and parents can learn what signs to look for in their children.
Children with autism usually develop problems in one or more of three critical areas-- social interaction, language and behaviour. In general, the symptoms of autism can vary greatly from child to child. In its most severe cases, autism can lead to an almost complete inability of the child to interact with others in a social setting.
Two-year olds who develop autism will typically show limited abilities in social situations. This can manifest itself in several ways, such as failure of the child to respond to his or her name, failure to maintain good eye contact, resisting efforts to cuddle or be held, and appearing unaware of others' feelings. The loss of such skills in two-year olds who had exhibited appropriate social behaviours, also can be signs of autism.
The ability to use language often grows rapidly in two-year old children. Children with autism often display pronounced difficulty and even regression in their ability to communicate. These children may begin talking much later than other children, or lose at least some of their ability to say words and sentences. Autistic children may develop abnormal voice tones or rhythms, and may not make eye contact when making requests or speaking to others.
Children with autism can exhibit certain behavioural characteristics that are markedly different from non-autistic two-year-olds. This can include repetitive motions, spinning, hand flapping or waving, or rocking motions. Children may develop ritualised activities or routines and become agitated once these routines are interrupted or changed. In severe cases, autistic children may develop self-abusive behaviour like biting, or headbanging.