Q: I have a 2-year old son who is very energetic and enjoys playing with his toys on his own. Sometimes I've noticed certain things he does like organizing his cars into a straight line and occasionally walking on his tip toes around the house. Is it too early to be worried about developing autism? My mother-in-law and grandma-in-law keep pushing me to have him tested and I'm just not sure if it's something we need to do.
A: With all of the information available to you and the push to look for early signs of Autism, I know you are trying to stay ahead of the game, but keep in mind that it’s not unusual for a 2 year old child to line up his toys. In fact, some toddlers enjoy creating the line up so that they can ‘crash’ it, like with lining blocks on top of each other. Tip toe walking occasionally is also not a reason for concern as your son is still developing his gross motor skills.
Autism is a disorder that impacts three major areas of development: language and communication, social interaction, and behavior (repetitive or restrictive). That is, a child with Autism either has limited speech or develops no speech at all, does not seek or enjoy social interaction, and/or engages in repetitive behaviors on a consistent basis in order to push out other stimulation in the environment that is overwhelming. For example, focusing on the train tracks of a train or the wheels on the train, and not playing with other toys, such as stuffed animals or puzzles.
If you are finding that your son is playful and enjoys interacting with you, other adults and children, is developing speech, and plays with an array of toys (as opposed to playing only with cars or obsessing over cars or a particular color car) yet occasionally tip toe walks and lines up his toys, I wouldn’t be concerned. However, if you are noticing that your son is not making gains in the areas of communication and social interaction, speak to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Early Intervention Program for an evaluation. If your child is eligible, he will be able to receive needed services through this program.