I Think My Child Has Autism: A Guide for Parents — Part 1

Part 1 – What Parents Should Look For

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), many parents aren’t aware of the early signs of autism and don’t start thinking about it as a possibility until their child reaches the typical age when they should be talking and they aren’t.

The early years with a child are filled with lots of hope and joy, so it’s understandable for parents to not think about autism. But with the rise of the neurodevelopmental disorder in children now at an all-time high (about 1 in 36 children as of January 2024), parents who suspect something isn’t quite right should know what to look for earlier rather than later. The earlier you know if your child has autism, the earlier you can get them into ABA therapy or other medical interventions which can greatly improve your child’s ability to learn and grow.


When to look for signs of autism

Typically, children show signs of autism between 12-18 months of age. However, autism symptoms can show themselves as early as 6 months. There are also cases of regression, where children stop using language, play, or social skills they’ve already learned. It can happen between 1-2 years of age and even earlier.


What are early signs of autism

Autism can affect many areas of a child’s development. Social and communication skills are two of the biggest areas that can be impacted. Early signs include:

  • Reduced or no eye contact
  • No response when you say their name or they appear not to hear you
  • Lack of emotional responses, like big smiles or engaged expressions
  • Not following your gaze or looking at an object you point to
  • Not waving or pointing
  • Little or no babbling, words, or meaningful two-word phrases
  • Few, if any, back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, and other facial expressions
  • Having problems with pretend or cooperative play and imitating others
  • Loss of previously learned speech, babbling, or social skills
  • Persistent repetition of words or phrases
  • Repetitive behaviors like flapping of hands, rocking, spinning, etc.
  • Unusual and intense interest in certain objects or sensory experiences
  • Not understanding simple questions or directions
  • Resisting cuddling and holding and preferring playing alone
  • Inspecting toys instead of playing with them
  • Unusual sensitivity to light, sound, or touch, yet indifferent to pain or temperature

To give you a better idea of what some of these signs look like in real life, this short video from the Kennedy Krieger Institute can help.


Which autism signs warrant professional testing

The Mayo Clinic says your healthcare team may recommend developmental tests if your child hasn’t reach these milestones:

  • Babble or coo by 12 months
  • Gesture, like pointing or waving, by 14 months
  • Loses language or social skills at any age
  • Mimic sounds or facial expressions by 9 months
  • Play make-believe or pretend by 18 months
  • Respond with a smile or happy expression by 6 months
  • Say single words by 16 months
  • Speak two-word phrases by 24 months


Take the M-CHAT-R autism test

If you’re still not sure if your child is showing early signs of autism, the M-CHAT-R can help. It’s a guided questionnaire that can help you decide whether or not to seek a professional evaluation of your child. It includes 20 specific questions about your child’s behavior and is intended for children between the ages of 16 to 30 months.

You can take the test here for free. No login is required and it only takes a few minutes to determine is your child might be at risk of having autism.


Keep in mind all children are unique

Autism in children can vary greatly in the areas of their development it affects, to what degree or severity, and when a child start showing signs. That’s why we say children are on the spectrum. There’s a wide range of autism symptoms, making each child with autism unique.

If you see any of these signs of autism in your child, always tell your healthcare provider about it. However, seeing signs of autism doesn’t mean your child has autism. You’ll need a professional evaluation and diagnosis to determine that.

Watch for Part 2 of our blog series, “I Think My Child Has Autism,” right here next week to learn the next steps in your journey, including the type of medical professionals you can turn to for testing and a diagnosis. We’ll also explore what’s involved in the testing and diagnostic process.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about autism and ABA therapy, our experts can help. Contact us today!





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.