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why is flapping a red flag for autism? *also in (toddlers)*

my son is almost 20 months old. He has to go to speech therapy. After the first evaluation they had a concern about his arms flapping when he got excited or frustrated. He did this when one of the women had bubbles in her hand. She wouldn't hand the bottle to him, and he flapped his arms in frustration. I understand if an older child + flaps the arms, there is something "wrong", but why would they say he might have autism for doing this, when he's only 20 m/o?

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Asked by Owl_Feather at 1:37 PM on Dec. 16, 2009 in Health

Level 22 (13,272 Credits)
Answers (8)
  • It's considered a "stim" and is common among children with autism. I know a little, as a close friend has a child with autism, but I will admit I don't know a LOT about it. Is he on target developmentally? Any other "red flags"? Any concerns that you have? If this is the ONLY thing, I might not worry about it. If you are truly concerned, have him evaluated by a pediatric psychologist. They are the ones to see if you are worried about autism.


    Answer by Krysta622 at 1:40 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • Because he is beyond the age of it being typical.Lil ones do it because they have no words yet for their excitement,but a 20 mo old should be able to express hapiness or frustration verbally.My son still does it and he's 8.He was diagnosed at 4 with autism and this was one of the signs they saw.

    Answer by TMJ121099 at 1:42 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • How about eye contact? Joint attention? Seems that there is a speech delay, but is there anything else or is it only the flapping of the hands that concerned them?

    Answer by bebita at 1:50 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • they were also concened about his eye contact. He doesnt look into the eyes of strangers though! I know many who are the same way! He was also overstimulated by all the toys they had in the office and although they listed that as a concern on paper, they told me all of the toys could have been a culprit. Another concern they had is that he never points. He has started to point a little bit. He does more of a reaching than a one finger point, but it's an improvement.

    Answer by Owl_Feather at 1:55 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • Toddlers and even kids up to age 6-ish, will flap their arms when they are excited. Just because a child flaps their arms doesn't mean they are Autistic. If that's the only "sign" he shows, I wouldn't be concerned, it's normal behavior.

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:59 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • my son was past two and a half before he said more than a couple of words. and if your son doesn't have the verbal communication then flapping his arms would be his way of communicating. they are at least telling you things that you need to look for and continue to look for.

    Answer by angevil53 at 2:52 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • It sound like they are telling you signs and you are trying to find reasons to say they are normal because you don't want to think your son might be autistic. If he is the earlier he is diagnosed, the earlier he can get the needed treatment, and the better he can do. Listen to what they are saying.

    Answer by Gailll at 3:01 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

  • no i'm not in denial...i'm just quoting from a friend of mine who was puzzled as to why they'd assume flapping of the arms at 20 m/o would mean autism, since he's still pretty young.

    Answer by Owl_Feather at 7:58 PM on Dec. 16, 2009

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