Expert Health Articles

Navigating Age-Appropriate Milestones & Potential Signs of Autism

Karen Martin, CPNP-PC, DNP

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric Associates of Northwest Ohio

“Autism” is one word that strikes fear in the hearts of parents, but your pediatric providers are here to help you navigate age-appropriate growth and development. In general, most children reach specific developmental milestones at certain ages. For example, a child has a time frame to master gross and fine motor skills as well as social and communicative skills.

By the age of 18 months old, typically a child will be climbing up steps, running, stacking a tower of a couple of cubes, pointing to at least one body part, saying six words, and removing some articles of clothing. Any parent can tell you how hard it is to keep clothes on a toddler. In general, take note if your child:

  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by nine months of age
  • Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Must follow certain routines
  • Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
  • Has delayed language skills
  • Has delayed movement skills
  • Has delayed cognitive or learning skills
  • Has hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior

When a child does not meet these developmental milestones, we, as pediatric providers, have red flag alerts for concern. Parents are the absolute best resource for monitoring growth and development. Working together with your child’s provider as a team is the best approach for the best outcomes for your little one. We can answer questions, make referrals, order testing if needed, and discuss findings to help you, as the parent team leader, understand the next steps.

Does it mean your child has autism if they are not doing all of these tasks by the book? No, but we can work together to find a potential reason why.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent resource for parents in a handy application called a milestones tracker at

Let’s work as a team to ensure our kids’ best potential.