Recent research has greatly expanded our knowledge about the early development of children with autism and related disorders. Familiarity with this literature will improve the ability of professionals to appropriately diagnose and intervene with young children with autism. This article reviews the literature pertaining to the development of children with autism under the age of 3 years. We examine findings on affective development, sensory processing and attention, praxis and imitation, communication, play, and motor features and stereotyped behaviors, and discuss the interrelationships among these different aspects of development. Screening and diagnostic tools with specific applicability to young children with autism are reviewed as well.
From the Divisions of Speech and Hearing Sciences (Dr Watson) and Occupational Sciences (Dr Baranek), Department of Allied Health Sciences, and the TEACCH Division (Dr DiLavore), Department of Psychiatry, Medical School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We thank Vesna Costello for her helpful assistance in preparation of the manuscript.
Corresponding author: Linda R. Watson, EdD, Department of Allied Health Sciences, CB # 7190, Medical School, Wing D, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27599‐7120 (e‐mail: Linda_Watson@med.unc.edu).