Are my twins autistic?

Twin boys wearing overalls sitting on stairs
How can I tell if my twins are autistic?

If you are on this website, you may already be wondering if your twins are autistic. When you have twins, triplets or quadruplets, it’s natural to make comparisons between them. You may feel like you are constantly watching to see who does what first and what is delayed.  Additionally, multiples are often born early, so there may naturally be some delays to development. 

Before the age of three, it can be really hard to know what is a delay that they might outgrow. Autism is rarely diganosed before the age of two. But, here are signs to watch for that mean your twins might be autistic.

What should I look for?

One of the earliest signs of autism in toddlers is inconsistent or unexpected eye contact.  It is a myth that all autistic people avoid eye contact!  You may notice that your child doesn’t look you in the eyes when you speak to them. Studies have shown that autistic children and adults either miss the social cues that eye contact is meaningful to others. Additionally anxiety or stress may make it uncomfortable for some autistics. If one or both of your twins don’t make eye contact or look when you say their name, it might be an early sign of autism.

Delayed speech is frequently associated with an autism diagnosis. By 16 months your child should be using single words. Around age two, your child should be combining two words into sentences. When my triplets were little, I noticed wide gaps in their speech. My non-autistic children were speaking in short sentences, while my autistic son was still just saying single words. 

Another sign to watch for is repetitive behaviours. This means things such as hand flapping, spinning objects or rocking back and forth. As a baby and toddler, my autistic son was fascinated with spinning wheels and ceiling fans.  Most toddlers want things their own way! But if your child has a fixation on a particular object or activity and struggles to move on from it, this could be an early sign of autism.

Many autistic children have sensory issues, such as being sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures. They may also seek out certain sensory experiences, such as spinning or jumping.  This also can show up as restrictive diets. For example, only eating or drinking preferred items and avoiding certain food textures or smells all together. 

Autistic toddlers may struggle with social interactions and may not show interest in playing with other children. They might not engage in imaginative play or pretend play with toys or dolls.  Your child might ignore other children or choose to play on their own. They may have difficulty understanding social cues or respond unexpectedly to others’ emotions.  This can be especially challenging for parents of multiples, who from the moment of pregnancy dreamed about the special bond they envisioned for their children.

If I think it’s autism, what should I do?

If you are wondering if your twins are autistic, keep a list of your concerns and speak with their doctor.  Regardless of whether they end up getting an autism diagnosis or something else, getting the right support in place will help your child grow and develop.

If your twins are identical and one of them is autistic, they are more likely to both be autistic.  Researchers frequently study autistic twins to try to understand more.  This is not always the case though, and even if they are both autistic, their symptoms may be different.  Fraternal twins have just as much chance of being autistic as any other set of siblings. 

If your twins are autistic, it’s also important to know you are not alone!  This website and our community are full of parents with questions and experiences just like yours. Are your twins triplets or quads autistic? Share your stories in the comments below.